4 December 2008

Back to the V&A

Events conspired to take me to South Kensington so I jumped at the opportunity to pop in to the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), as I always do.

I headed first for the Madejski Garden because I knew that there was a new audio-visual display there. This is Forever and is by Universal Everything.

It was very cold so I was one of the few people who ventured outside to fully appreciate the work. I liked the way that the patterns of light changed, the way that they were reflected in the water and the contrast with the traditional architecture of the garden square.

The music that accompanied the lights was electronic ambient, which is good because I like electronic ambient.

The Madejski Garden is meant to be an oasis of tranquillity in what is typically a bustling museum and it succeeds admirably.

One section that I always visit is the small architecture display. I also used to visit the Frank Lloyd Wright room (which was very hard to find) but this has been mothballed to make room for something else. I hope it comes back one day.

Off the small architecture room is an even smaller room that is used for exhibitions. I was delighted to find that it currently hosts The Olympic Stadium Project - Le Corbusier and Baghdad.

This display examines one of the last projects by Le Corbusier, begun in 1957, his fascinating design for a sports stadium in Baghdad. The stadium was to be part of a larger complex of sports facilities, originally the basis of Baghdad's bid for the 1960 Olympics.

With specially commissioned models and several drawings and sketches, it gives a sense of what this marvellous structure would have looked like had the project come to fruition.

With some free time left I then went on a general explore. At one point I found a room full of musical instruments which I do not recall seeing before and am not sure that I could find again.

At its best the V&A combines the elements of Gormenghast and Hogwarts to bring a sense of grandeur, vastness, magic and mystery. It would be a truly wonderful place even if it was empty.

But it is not empty and it has, amongst many assorted things, a collection of silverware, including this fierce statue.

Silverware is not really my thing but, for me, the V&A gets it just right with a display that is not too large and contains an eclectic mix of items.

It's the unexpected surprises at both the macro level (finding a new room) and the micro level (individual items) that makes such a constant joy for me. I'll be back soon.


  1. Totally agree Matthew. The V&A certainly has a'magical quality that goes beyond the exhibits. The place is an exhibit!

  2. You describe very well all the reasons I love the V&A too. Unfortunately I have fewer opportunities to visit these days...

  3. It is a magical and interesting place, but I do remember the chaotic impression I had most of the times I visited. Just like you indicated, it always seemed to be impossible to find your way, it often turned into some random adventure walk! Then again, maybe that's the charm of the place.


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