As I arrived at the V&A on Sunday at 8.45 the last banners advertising Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes 1909-1929 were being taken down which really made it feel like the end. However I had one last special tour to give ahead of the public flocking in. By lunchtime the tickets for the last day were completely sold out, as were the copies of the book to accompany the exhibition.
Adolph Bolm in Prince Igor
Comments left about the exhibition have been enlightening and helpful. Yes, with the crowds flocking in this last week it did create problems of flow, and insufficient seating. It was unfortunate that it was not possible to fix the lights on the Prince Igor case – especially as Prince Igor was such an important ballet – danced at a quarter of all Ballets Russes performances!
Two of the Ikat-weave tunics for dancers in the Polovtsian dances from Prince Igor
The use of AVs within the galleries certainly divided opinion, but for an exhibition about dance I think it would be a mistake to ghetto all movement into a separate room. For those who thought we should have shown more reconstructions of productions created for Diaghilev’s company such as Bronislava Nijinska’s Les Biches I would point out we could only include it if there was good quality film material in existence.
In respect of sound leakage this is the kind of problem that will be investigated further when plans are drawn up for the V&A’s new exhibition galleries. We were working in spaces never designed for a 21st Century exhibition. Anyway we take as much (probably more) note of those who hated the exhibition as those who loved it.
For those who felt we should have given more credit to Richard Buckle – well there was a notice at the end of the exhibition saying ‘this exhibition is dedicated to Richard Buckle CBE (1916-2001), ballet critic, editor and biographer who helped to revolutionise museum design. Due to his commitment the V&A has one of the finest collections of material documenting the Ballets Russes.’ There were also a number of strategic ‘homages’ to Buckle throughout the exhibition that those who knew his work might pick up.
Finally to those who commented on the exhibition being a rare opportunity to see material from the V&A’s Theatre & Performance Collections I would remind them that there is a dedicated Theatre & Performance Gallery on the first floor of the V&A (even if it is a bit of a challenge to reach it). I spent quite a lot of time over the weekend taking visitors from overseas up to it to ensure they know more about the work of the department. Although there is no material focusing on the Ballets Russes displayed at present, there are some linked items such as the painting by ‘Gluck’ of Massine backstage in the 1925 CB Cochran revue, and a costume from David Hockney’s 1983 version of The Nightingale. However the content of the gallery will be changed around and you can expect the inclusion of Diaghilevian material in the future.