27 January 2013

More wanderings in the V&A

Having spent the morning touring the Hollywood Costume exhibition I then spent most of the rest of my birthday exploring other parts of the V&A. It was my birthday and that is what I wanted to do.

I won't pretend that I knew where I was going most of the time, or even that I knew where I was, and that is a positive. The big joy of the V&A is the serendipitous discovery that comes from random wanderings and the obstinate refusal to look at one of the helpful maps.

There are large sections that, ostensibly,  are filled with things that I am not that interested in, such as sculpture or metalworks, yet such is the richness and quality of the V&A that there are always some objects that appeal immensely as I amble past and these make me pause to examine them further.

Thinks such as The Lure of the Pipes that I love for its simplicity, clear lines, neat typeface and the palpable sense of anticipation in the two women.

Somewhere in the same corner of the museum (and it has an awful lot of corners, possibly a British record) is the Medieval section which is kept dark to protect the fragile objects on display. Amongst them is this lively tapestry.




Also on the ground floor, and this time fairly easy to find as it is close to the shop, is the Japan gallery.

I was just using it as a route through avoiding the busy shop but was halted by the display of Lolita fashion. This mixes other styles, such as Gothic and Punk, with little girl skirts and soft toys.

My immediate thought was of Gogo Yubari in Kill Bill Vol. 1 (a wonderful film) where O-Ren Ishi's most deadly aide combines extreme violence with a pleated skirt and girlish giggles.

This is the Punk Lolita complete with chains and cuddly toy. It looks fantastic.

I did have one destination in mind, and that was the new furniture gallery. This is located on the sixth floor in a new half-wing off the ceramics section that runs across the front of the building.

Getting there is not easy, which is how I like it. For example, staircase V only goes to level 4; there is no level 5 in that section of the building.

The furniture is arranged sparingly along a narrow corridor. Space is limited but what the V&A does well across the museum is select pieces that give you a enough of a flavour of the subject to satisfy and inform.



The gallery also takes a big technological step forward and instead of the usual printed cards describing the works the information is provided by iPad-like touch-screens. The big advantage of these is that they can hold a lot more information as each one can have several pages of information.

This innovation means that a gallery that I could have walked through in something like ten seconds took getting on for an hour to wade through.

After the furniture I went in to the modern ceramics section next door. This is unusual for the V&A in that here the approach is to stack-em-high and there are long shelves from floor to ceiling that are stuffed tightly behind protective glass.

I tried to walk past slowly, intending to spend time there on a future visit, but it proved impossible to do so and I was forced to stop repeatedly to looking at things. Things like teapots.

The familiar V&A whimsy was on display here too and in among old and valuable objects was a collection of everyday mugs, including a Beano mug.

I was flagging a little by then, I think that I had been in the museum for over five hours, so it was time to head back to the cafe (where I had had lunch earlier) for the mandatory tea and cake.

Of course the route there was not straightforward and I found myself seriously distracted by the Britain 1500 - 1760 gallery on level 2.

That is where I discovered this four-poster bed dressed in the sort of fabric that should be made in to a tie.

The gallery does not connect directly to any others, the only access is via stairs or lifts, and that heightens the sense of adventure in getting there when you meant to.

Going down from there took me back in to the main flow of the building and then the cafe was was a simple, if slow, jaunt. It was a slow cup of tea too as I really needed a rest by then.

The quickest way from the cafe to the tube is through the garden and out the main entrance. The sun had given up for the day by then and the courtyard looked stunning in its night-guise.



And that was that for an excellent day out and a series of birthday treats all in one building. This blog informs me that I have been to the V&A twelve times in the last six years, and I had been several times before that, and still it is easy to find new things to surprise, entertain and delight. It really is a magical place.

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