When I started this blog I needed to think about where I draw the line between a Museum and an art gallery and what is what. My simple method is just “If it says museum, it’s a museum”.The V&A is an amazing place, filled with works of art, sculpture, craftwork, interior design and design in general, it’s pretty hard to categorise. If pushed I’d say it’s an “Art Museum”, not that it really matters. My recent visit was, I think, my fourth ande whenever I visit I head straight for the Plaster Cast rooms, two huge halls filled with copies of some of Europe’s most recognisable large works of historic sculpture. Sadly at time of writing and for the short-term future one of these two rooms was closed for refurbishment work, nonetheless in one room you get to see the amazing portico from Santiago De Compostela (Galicia), the Viking doorway Al Hallingdal Church, looking like it has come straight from the set of Thor and Trajan’s column (Rome) – only chopped into two bits and with the top missing.
Feeling unconstrained by chronology or global geography of the exhibits, I just walked around this Museum for the 90 minutes I had til closing and enjoyed the aesthetic pleasures, atmosphere and took pleasure in watching the other visitors. I don’t know that I learned much, but the exceptional quality of all the works of art / exhibits created a feeling for those eras to which each room was allocated. The Bushido strictness of Japan, the fervant religiosity of medieval Europe, the love of beauty in Italy’s Renaissance. It was nice to be in a museum without feeling the need to stop and read and try to remember facts or historical sequences, but just to be around the very finest produce of history.
Walking fairly randomly but in the hope that I would find the Great Bed of Ware, as mentioned by Shakespeare (Ware being near my old school), I found myself in the plush surroundings of the room taken from Norfolk house, beautifully restored in its entirety, having wandered past fine metal work, modern fashion and islamic carpets of historic significance.
It’s quite pointless trying to describe what I saw – it is a museum of the visual and I took 56 photographs whilst there, many more than at any other museum, sadly with my rubbish phone camera but nonetheless I’ll share a few.
Despite being right next to the Natural History Museum / Science Museum, the V&A is quiet and fairly peaceful. There aren’t crowds pressuring you to move quickly from exhibit to exhibit or necessitating constant awareness of who’s path you’re about to block. Of course it is another fantastic free museum and I’ll definitely be returning again soon (erm, after I do the other 57 museums) to just stroll about, maybe listen to something on my MP3 player and be around all the pretty stuff. If you want to get more depth from your visit I recommend looking at the website, as there are a loads and loads of events going on, plus a podcast and rotating exhibitions to boot.
Location: Cromwell Road, South Kensington, Sw7 2RL (nearest tube South Kensington)
Opening Times: 10 -17.45 every day except Friday (10am-10pm) *They will start chucking you out well before that though. A practice which irks me greatly.