V&A FuturePlan

With the success of the opening of the British Galleries in 2001, the Victoria and Albert Museum, known as the V&A, announced its decision to embark on a major redesign of around 70 per cent of the galleries in the museum. This plan, known as the ‘Future Plan’, was started in 2002 and was set to be finished by 2012. The ‘Future Plan’ was divided into three phases. The first phase, costing an estimated £30 million and compromising of no less than 28 separate projects, ranges from improvements in signage and labels through to complete redesign of several galleries. Those that have been redesigned have included the main Silver Gallery in 2002 (changes were made to the main entrance), the Photography and Painting Galleries in 2003 and in 2004 the entrance from the tunnel leading to South Kensington tube station was reopened for the first time since the 1970s. This year sees many of the new galleries opening including the Theatre and Performance Galleries, the refurbished Ceramic Galleries but the most expectant of these changes is the Medieval and Renaissance wing set to open in November 2009.
Costing £11 million, and spanning the east wing of the museum, this new development will compromise of ten new galleries which will be spread over three levels. The displays will be broadly chronological documenting the story of European art and design between 300AD and 1600, housing over 1,800 objects, some of which are the V&A’s most remarkable treasures. Some of the items visitors will be able to peruse are masterpieces such as the Becket Casket, a fine example of medieval craftsmanship that contains the relics of the archbishop Thomas Becket, the rare and exceptional Lorsch Gospels Cover, one of the largest and grandest ivory medieval book covers to have survived from the Court of Charlemagne in around 800, and the Studley Bowl which is one of the earliest surviving pieces of English domestic silver. A whole gallery is devoted to the work of Donatello and for the first time on permanent display will be Leonardo Da Vinci’s small notebooks. The labels accompanying the display will also highlight important historical figures as well as patrons.
These changes provide an opportunity for the modernisation of the presentation of its artefacts. We can expect some of them to be thematically brought together within their cultural context, for example, within a domestic interior, or set in a religious space with translucent onyx window screens providing the effect of a medieval church. Upon the completion of all three phases, the museum is to be seen as a city, which will be divided into a series of quarters, making the disparate museum easier to tackle. One of the galleries will even resemble an Italian Renaissance courtyard complete with balcony, trees and a fountain.
The Press release detailing these changes contains a quote from Mark Jones, Director of the V&A, saying that “The V&A can now claim to be a world-class 21st-century museum with beautiful contemporary displays in a revitalised historic building.” The changes to the building make this statement very true. Since Jones took over in 2001, it is no longer seen as a “fusty, dusty maze of a place, with a jumble of artefacts drawn from every culture and age, poorly lit and amateurishly labelled”. The museum has managed to shake this image, as the completion of Phase One sees the lighting improved and displays and labelling enhanced and organised. All of this of this looks good on paper, but will it finally deliver for the V&A?
The V&A has a habit of acquiring exhibitions that are always described in a way that sells itself very well, but it never quite lives up to this expectation. It is a very disparate museum which is mirrored in its architecture. Once the new Medieval and Renaissance wing opens it will display what is described as the “greatest collection of Italian Renaissance sculpture outside Italy”; At the moment, it only seems to skim the surface of the collections it exhibits. My favourite exhibitions at the V&A were the temporary At Home in Renaissance Italy as well as the permanent fashion collections, but even these left me unsatisfied. There was not enough to feed my passion, and there appeared to be holes within the history and its documentation. Like a history text book, it gives the general idea, but it doesn’t go deep enough, which to the viewer can leave a sense of a lack of passion for what is being displayed. Indeed, for tourists having such a diverse range of collections from Ceramics through to Theatre and Performance in one place can seem appealing, but the fact that there is so much within the museum makes it very hard to tackle.
SE For 3E News

No comments:

Post a Comment