Designing William Kent

Designing William Kent is a behind-the-scenes look at the process of delivering a major exhibition. These posts will focus on the many different aspects of curating and designing a show, as well as highlighting links between the exhibition and Kent’s work elsewhere in the country. 

William Kent: Designing Georgian Britain is the result of a major research collaboration between the V&A and the Bard Graduate Center.
William Kent: Designing Georgian Britain is open at the V&A, 22 March – 13 July 2014.

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Spot the Dog

I never though I would spend a morning running around the Museum looking for a dog, but it transpires that you can never quite predict the day’s task when it comes to exhibition design. In this particular battle of wits I had youth and speed on my side since the dog is almost 300 years […]

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CopyKent: Designers, Engravers and Candlestick Makers

This morning a very nice group of jewellery design students came to look at some of the many jewellery designs in the V&A’s collection. Inspiring the creative industries has always been one of the Museum’s raisons d’être, and it was great to see contemporary designers getting excited about 19th century work, sketching and taking photos, […]

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A Battle of Words

Some of the most significant power struggles in an exhibition surround label writing. These struggles are not, I hasten to add, between members of staff– we’re yet to engage in fisticuffs over ambiguously placed commas. Rather, the competition is between different types of information, and who, or what, should have precedence. Although (or perhaps because) […]

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Searching for the Perfect Match: A trip to Houghton Hall

Both the greatest opportunities and the greatest challenges that the William Kent exhibition presents are in recreating within a museum setting a sense of Kent’s designs for grand and influential spaces. Unlike many of his predecessors, Kent did not just devise buildings, or only paint ceilings, or exclusively design furniture, or solely landscape gardens; instead, […]

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If Walls had Ears (and Chairs had Mouths)

I don’t know about you, but I was very relieved to read that Dick van Dyke escaped unscathed from the jaws of death last week. Having spent my childhood learning about Women’s Lib from Mary Poppins and my student years studying the complexities of the American healthcare system by way of Diagnosis Murder, I’m very […]

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A Staycation in Chiswick

Last weekend I took something of a busman’s holiday and trundled along the District line to Chiswick House. Chiswick brings together two important figures in William Kent’s life: Lord Burlington, Kent’s long-time patron and friend; and Andrea Palladio, the sixteenth-century Venetian architect. As I mentioned last time, Burlington and Kent met in Italy, where they […]

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Theoretical Unmentionables: A Matter of Taste

Academic theory, as someone* once said, is very much like underwear: it provides essential structural support at all times but should remain unseen, apart from the occasional flash, revealed judiciously for maximum effect. Although they’re usually kept discreetly tucked away in exhibitions, all curators select and display objects based on their theoretical assumptions. Sometimes these […]

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Design in 2 Dimensions

Design is all about the interplay between the 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional, as ideas that start life on paper are translated into the objects that they predict. In the nineteenth century members of the Arts and Crafts movement challenged the separation of design from craftsmanship, in the belief that historically practitioners would have executed their own […]

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Gilty Pleasures

If there was one thing that that William Kent was good at, it was gold. Actually he was good at many things, but he approached gilding with a taste or ‘gusto’ that, quite literally, dazzled his contemporaries. Kent’s love of gold can be traced back to the years he spent in Italy as a young […]

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Back to the Drawing Board

In a previous post I wrote about design as a process of collaborative evolution, and nowhere is this more apparent than with the creation of a large exhibition like William Kent. At last count, there are at least 10 people who regularly attend the design meetings for the V&A version of the show. This includes, […]

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