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Out On Display #10: Because We Must

          Costumes for Because We Must Designed by Leigh Bowery Made by Mr. Pearl London, crewel work & appliqué, 1987 S.101 & 102-2010 On display in room 105   For maverick gay artist, costume designer, club promoter and poseur, Leigh Bowery (1961-1994), fashion and clothing were an integral part of his […]

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Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier

Vivien Leigh in the Theatre & Performance Galleries

Earlier this year, the V&A acquired the Vivien Leigh archive. This has enabled us to display some of the unique objects from this collection in the Museum’s Theatre & Performance Galleries (103 – 106). Vivien Leigh (1913 – 1967) is one of the most celebrated actors of the 20th century. Born in India and educated […]

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Continuing Mysteries

The cover of the 1915 souvenir programme, note the women’s Kokoshnik headdresses The Nijinsky, Poiret and Matisse cases were de-installed today so many of our star objects have been put away. As all the costumes are packed it is an opportunity to check details – sometimes because of questions received during the exhibition – sometimes because other questions spring to mind. It is fascinating, for example, to look closely at the Snow Maiden’s headscarf for Soleil de nuit spread flat out to appreciate its appliqué. The solo, originally danced by Lydia Lopokova, was added by Massine to his ballet created …

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Going, going, gone

After filing my blog yesterday I returned to the galleries for a last look.After 17.15 the crowds thinned out and among the last visitors were a widely diverse group; two children were dancing in front of The Firebird and a family was making lightening sketches of costumes. Visitors departed reluctantly but happily and I knew I’d never see the full exhibition again. How right I was. By the time I reached the gallery this morning the whole of the Rite of Spring section had been dismantled including the Meissen figures from Le Carnaval and the designs and drawings of Le …

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Adventures with costumes

In the exhibition we show a short film incorporating material from the BBC’s Late Night Line Up: Diaghilev Scenery and Costumes originally transmitted on 22 July 1968 to help explain the acquisition of sets and costumes by the V&A. Of course the full story is somewhat more complex as they were purchased by Richard Buckle – with, as he liked to say, other people’s money, to establish a Museum of Theatre Arts in London. They were handed over to the V&A some six years later in 1974 when a number of collections came together. In 1975 in conjunction with Salisbury …

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Three Guests (but were they wise men?)

Design by Léon Bakst for Felicita in The Good-Humoured Ladies (1917) V&A images Happy Christmas! Its taken me a long time to notice that on the Christmas Tree in the Sackler Centre (the V&A’s home of L&I) many of the ‘presents’ include copies of the famous poster image of Vaslav Nijinsky as the Spirit of the rose. Does this mean that Father Christmas has a supply of Ballets Russes treasures to deliver? The image by Jean Cocteau was created for the 1911 season in Monte Carlo when the Ballets Russes as a Company was first formed although the version of …

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Ballets Russes photos

Postcard showing photograph by Bassano of Tamara Karsavina and Adolph Bolm in The Firebird It is so satisfying when everything links up. I go to the Canaletto at the National Gallery and cannot escape the fact that Venice was Diaghilev’s favourite city. I see The Glasgow Boys at the Royal Academy and I am aware that it was the World of Art Group led by Diaghilev who introduced their work to Russian viewers. OK I am a bit mentally stuck in one world but anyone seeing the Bassano display at the National Portrait Gallery which runs through until 24 July …

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Before the exhibition opened today I visited the gallery to see important conservation maintenance work going on. Costumes on open display need to have accumulated dust particulates removed. London is a dusty city: the Museum is located on a main road with heavy traffic and at present road works causing chaos in both Cromwell and Exhibition Roads. Inevitably the dust creeps into the galleries. There are also the inevitable particulates brought in by our visitors. The question about whether costumes may be put on open display or cased is one taken very seriously by the V&A and throughout the Diaghilev …

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The end of installation

It really is busy – all our last loans have arrived so those gaps on the walls are being filled. The couture fashions look stunning and really serve their purpose – you can clearly see the influence of Bakst, Picasso, Goncharova and Matisse and wouldn’t it be fun to wear such outfits! The two cartoons by Jean Cocteau are the last objects to go into the Nijinsky section. These show Nijinsky and Diaghilev in Le Spectre de la rose. No that is not a mistake Diaghilev has been drawn with bonnet, cape and rose as the Young Girl, an ironic …

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