'The calibre of work and the
wealth of intriguing ideas on
which these quilts shed light
is both impressive and exciting.'
Sara O'Reilly, Time Out
Right: Patchwork bed hangings (1730-50) incorporating British
and Indian Cottons at the entrance to Quilts: 1700-2010.
Below: A section of the exhibition Horace Walpole and Strawberry
Hill, showing some of Walpole's many portraits emphasising
his lineage, living relatives and friends.
Over 300 years of British patchwork and quilting were exhibited for the
first time in Quilts: 1700-2010 (20 March-4 July 2010) supported by the
Friends of the V&A, with further support from Coats Crafts and the Coats
Foundation Trust. The V&A collection, key loans and new commissions
unravelled some of the complex personal narratives and broader historical
events surrounding quilt production and use. The innovative exhibition
design incorporated beds in order to display quilts as they were originally
intended to be seen.
The project facilitated research on the V&A's existing collection and pieces
acquired specifically for the show. Following archival research on a donated
quilted patchwork cot cover (1690-1720), for example, curators were able
to name the maker as Priscilla Redding and discover her diary, now held in
a private collection
The Rajah Quilt (1841), made onboard HMS Rajah by women being
transported to Van Diemen's Land, is the only known transportation quilt
in a public collection. This is the first time the National Gallery of Australia
has lent it to a British venue. The quilt was juxtaposed with the HMP Wandsworth Quilt, created in
collaboration with Fine
Cell Work, a charity
that teaches needlework skills to inmates in around 30 prisons in the UK.
The quilt has been designed and stitched by the all-male quilting group
at HMP Wandsworth to offer a reflection on contemporary prison life.
Its purchase was funded by the Friends of the V&A.
Horace Walpole and Strawberry Hill
At Strawberry Hill, a villa in the form of 'a little gothic castle' on the banks
of the Thames, built by the English 18th-century collector Horace Walpole,
visitors once flocked to see Walpole's eclectic collections surveying British
history and European art. This major exhibition (6 March-4 July 2010) was
the culmination of a seven-year collaboration between the V&A, the Lewis
Walpole Library and the Yale Center for British Art, with research funding
from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon
Foundation. It recreated Walpole's collection in the context of his 'castle'.
Ongoing academic and architectural research informed the exhibition.
Discoveries resulting from the current restoration of Strawberry Hill house,
by Peter Inskip + Peter Jenkins Architects, helped to shape the exhibition
and the accompanying book. Newly discovered documents changed the understanding of the subject,
including Walpole's account of 1772 describing
the aesthetic effects he strived to achieve at Strawberry Hill;
a mood journey through 'light, dark and harmony'.
The exhibition team initiated a database of Walpole's
collection, now held in museums and private collections
across the world. This is accessible on the Lewis
Walpole Library website, and provides a useful legacy
of the show.
'The historical sweep of this
fine exhibition is brilliantly
conveyed, a complicated story
is efficiently outlined - and
some magical art is displayed
Judith Flanders, The Sunday Telegraph
Maharaja: the Splendour of India's Royal Courts
The first exhibition of its kind, Maharaja: the Splendour of India's Royal
Courts (10 October 2009-17 January 2010) explored ideas of kingship in
India and the changing role of the maharajas in a historical and social
context. The exhibition, sponsored by Ernst & Young, brought together a rich
array of objects including paintings, 'a spectacle of shimmering gold textiles,
enormous jewels… and a rainbow of vivid colours' (David Hayes, Financial
Times) and even a Rolls Royce. The works were drawn from the V&A's
superlative collections and from private individuals and public institutions
in Europe, North America and Qatar. Working closely with the Government
of India and the Indian High Commission in the UK, the curators also
secured the loan of over 50 objects from six royal collections in India,
enabling them to include pieces that in most cases had never left the
palaces for which they were created.
Many exciting discoveries were made during the research process.
A previously unknown letter in the British Library's collections, for example,
was identified as having been written by Indian heroine Lakshmibai, the
Rani of Jhansi. In this history-making document of 1853 Lakshmibai asks
the Governor-General to
recognise her adopted son as the new Raja. The
request was refused and the Rani subsequently led her army in the siege
of Jhansi by East India troops - an action that made her a national legend.
The design of the exhibition and the way in which objects were displayed
was important, particularly in the section that detailed lawajama, a king's
regalia and insignia. Instead of showcasing lawajama as individual pieces in
separate cases, the curators worked with designers Urban Salon Architects
to create a procession with a life size model elephant and horse around
which the lawajama were displayed in an arrangement underpinned by
extensive curatorial research.
Right: A model elephant displaying a king's regalia and insignia in Maharaja: the Splendour of India's Royal Courts
Left from left to right: 'Dandelion', 2009, by YOKE and Sennep
'Venetian Mirror', 2009, by Fabrica
'Body Paint', 2009, by Mehmet Akten
All exhibited in the 'Interactivity' section of Decode: Digital
Design Sensations. Each exhibit responded to the movement
or presence of visitors and translated it back into the work.
'A drift through the hologram
deck of this fairytale exhibit is
my idea of good sex.'
Ken Russell, The Times, on Telling Tales:
Fantasy and Fear in Contemporary Design
Decode: Digital Design Sensations
Digital and interactive design is a growing aspect of the V&A's contemporary
programme. This major exhibition (8 December 2009-11 April 2010), in
partnership with business software provider SAP, outlined digital practices
and showcased 'dazzling examples of data visualization' (Alice Rawsthorn,
International Herald Tribune). Co-curated with contemporary arts organisation
onedotzero it attracted over 94,000 visitors. The exhibition covered three
themes concerning contemporary practitioners: the use of computer code,
interactivity and the influence of the viewer, and the impact of today's
communication networks. The exhibition capitalised on the fact that digital
design is a collaborative field bringing together leading international artists,
designers, programmers, coders, architects, and curators.
The V&A commissioned Karsten Schmidt to create a digital moving-image
identity for the exhibition using open source code. The work was used as
part of an innovative marketing campaign which invited the on-line
community to recode Karsten's identity and create their own unique work.
Selected works then featured on the microsite, and were shown on the
London Underground as part of a partnership with
CBS Outdoor, the largest media partnership the Museum has secured.
New commissions for the exhibition included 'bit.code' by Julius Popp,
funded by the V&A and SAP. This work consists of a large bank of spinning
black and white moving energy chains representing the 1s and 0s of binary
code. At certain times they align to display the most popular words taken
from recent web feeds.
The V&A has a continuing commitment to digital programming. 2011 will
see a year-long programme of digital initiatives by the V&A's Contemporary
Team, who will team up artists, designers, technology providers and
academic institutions to explore the ways in which innovative new
technologies can transform visitors understanding and appreciation of
the Museum and its collections, both online and offline.
Telling Tales: Fantasy & Fear in Contemporary Design
Over 165,000 visitors saw this exhibition (14 July-18 October 2009)
curated by Gareth Williams, Senior Tutor at the Royal College of Art (RCA),
that showcased high-end contemporary design inspired by storytelling.
European Designers working in furniture, lighting and ceramics are crossing
boundaries between art and
design. They are using their work to explore
fear and fantasy through the materials they use, decorative devices or
historical references. The exhibition was accompanied by a programme of
events including a study day on fairytales, a symposium 'Furniture Futures'
sponsored by John Makepeace Furniture and
The Worshipful Company of
Furniture Makers, and courses on creative writing, digital lampshade design
and collecting the contemporary.
A Higher Ambition: Owen Jones (1809-74)
Owen Jones wrote one of the most important design sourcebooks ever
produced: The Grammar of Ornament. He helped to shape Victorian design,
with studies for Islamic decoration at the Alhambra Palace and plans for the
1851 Great Exhibition building. The V&A holds the world's most comprehensive
collection of Owen Jones material. This exhibition (28 March-22 November
2009, and then touring Europe and the Middle East) is the first monographic
display to look at Owen Jones's contribution to architecture, design and
Sit Down: Seating for Kids
Featuring over 75 examples spanning 400 years, this exhibition at the
Museum of Childhood (6 February-5
September 2010) addressed the form
and function of children's seats. The subject underpins the founding
purpose of the V&A - to show excellent examples of applied art and design.
The exhibition involved new research into the V&A's existing collections and
fed into the work of furniture manufacturer Ercol. The curatorial team
worked very closely with Ercol, who set a brief for a child's school seat for
students at New Buckinghamshire University. The exhibition incorporated
the brief, design concept and development of three designs. The resulting
stools were on display and visitors were asked to test and provide feedback
to inform the stools' future commercial production.
Future Fashion Now: New Design from the Royal College of Art
This exhibition developed in collaboration with the RCA (22 May 2009-31
January 2010) detailed the intricate processes involved in designing clothes.
It featured the sketchbooks, design boards, photographs, prototypes and
over 55 finished pieces from recent RCA MA graduates' collections. Selected
pieces were then displayed at an evening reception at Buckingham Palace
to celebrate the British Clothing Industry. The show demonstrates the V&A's
engagement with the creative industries and championship of emerging
artists and designers.
Top left: 'Dune', 2007, by Daan
Roosegaarde, exhibited in
Sensations - an interactive
consisting of reeds
that respond to the sounds and
of passing visitors.
Bottom left: 'The Enchanted
Castle' section of Telling Tales:
Contemporary Design, with
'Bella Barbara', 2007,
Marcel Wanders in the centre.
Bottom right: 'Ride-on Roary the
Racing Car', 2007, given by
in Sit Down: Seating for Kids
at the Museum of Childhood.
V&A Illustration Awards
Every year the V&A recognises and celebrates the best quality illustration in
books, newspapers, magazines and comics by running the Illustration
Awards, sponsored by the Enid Linder Foundation. Judged by renowned
artists and cultural figures, they continue to be the most valuable financial
UK award a professional illustrator can win. The overall winner in 2009 out
of 650 entries was Tom Burns for his illustrations to
The New York Trilogy by
Paul Auster (London, The Folio Society, 2008).
Fashion in Motion
Fashion in Motion brings catwalk couture to the atmospheric setting of
the V&A's Raphael Gallery. The V&A works with world-class designers to
showcase their work to visitors. These catwalk shows complement fashion
displayed in the Museum's galleries, giving visitors, from students to fashion
journalists, a rare chance to see high fashion being worn. This year's events
included an overview of Giles Deacon's collections which combine careful
tailoring with pop culture, and the London-based ready to wear label by Erdem
Moralioglu. Participating designers stress the importance and influence of
the V&A's collections and regularly make research trips to the Museum.
The V&A is open every Friday evening until 10pm. The last Friday of the
month is Friday Late - a vibrant night of themed events focusing on
contemporary art and design, bringing V&A programmes to new and young
audiences. The V&A works with established and emerging artists and
designers to propagate contemporary interventions and installations as
well as performance art and music, talks and debates. The June Friday Late
celebrated the last in a successful 10-year series of annual Village Fetes, 'the
jewel in the crown of the V&A's events calendar' (Sara O'Reilly, Time Out),
where the garden is taken over by artistic stalls inviting visitors to partake
in crazy contests. Over 5,000 visitors marked the opening of the Medieval &
Renaissance Galleries with the Renaissance Ball, featuring music inspired
by the galleries and a specially commissioned site-specific dance piece.
The Museum of Childhood takes part in the 'First Thursdays' initiative in
East London, opening late with special events aimed at adult audiences on
the first Thursday of every month. This year these included fairytale-themed
workshops led by the East London Printmakers and workshops teaching
decoupage techniques on recycled household objects.
The V&A's flagship programme of workshops and
projects for secondary schools, DesignLab, gained
momentum this year. Through partnerships
with schools and designers, the programme is
researching and developing innovative new
approaches to teaching and learning in design
using the V&A's collections. To complement this,
the V&A runs the Create! programme of
workshops and courses, supported by the Wates
Foundation. This is aimed specifically at young
people, including a youth forum, free events and
digital projects run in the Museum's wellequipped
Sackler Centre studios. The V&A is
also leading a local initiative Creative Quarter,
which offers a programme of talks, workshops
and drop-in activities about different creative
industries related to the V&A collections. Over
3,000 secondary school students attended the
event in November 2009.
Right from top to bottom: Friday Late: Renaissance Ball, January 2010
Catwalk image from the V&A's Fashion in Motion:
Giles, July 2009 showing a full-length dress and hat from the Giles
Autumn/Winter 2009 collection. This was one of 60 looks that
formed the show by internationally acclaimed London designer
Right from top to bottom:
area in the Sackler Centre
Workshop led by
Stephen Dixon in the Ceramics
Studio in the new Ceramics
'London's Victoria and Albert
Museum, which offers six-month
interaction with the public
a step further. The museum
focuses heavily on creating
workshops for visitors and
aims to furnish its residents
with teaching skills that they
can use to support themselves
later in life.'
Laura Snoad, Design Week
The residency programme
Residencies for designers, makers and artists have an increasing presence
at the V&A with studios in the Sackler Centre and Ceramics Galleries. The
residencies play an important role in engaging our visitors, teaching them
about the creative process and inspiring them to use V&A collections in
new ways. All Museum residents lead learning programmes and have
access to the Museum collections for research. The Sackler Residency
Programme is supported by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and the Esmée
Fairbairn Foundation. The Crafts Council, HSBC and RIBA + V&A Partnership
have supported individual residencies.
Highlights include the Museum's first international resident, HSBC Designer
in Residence, Lao Jianhua, who engaged with over 3,300 visitors and
developed a number of products which he hopes to manufacture. Other
residents include contemporary basket maker Mary Butcher and comics
artist Karen Rubins. In the Ceramics Studio, Independent Practice Resident
Professor Stephen Dixon invited the public to bring ceramic shards to the
Museum and make a life-size mosaic bust of Queen Victoria as part of
'Ceramica', the weekend of events celebrating the opening of the new
Ceramics Galleries. While at the V&A Dixon was
influenced by the skeumorphs (vessels made in one material intended to evoke vessels usually made in
another) in the Asian ceramics collection and he made his own with the use
of specialised clays. His output continues at the Museum, as a blog, archive
of work and an ongoing art project.
London Design Festival
The buzz of the contemporary design world reached every corner of the
Museum during the annual London Design Festival (19-27 September 2009)
which celebrates and promotes London as the Design Capital of the world.
As the Festival Hub the V&A was the first point of call for visitors to the
festival and housed an array of site-specific exhibitions, talks, workshops
and activities, as well as star-studded evening events. The Sackler Centre
provided a platform for the Design Embassy where international design and
business delegates mingled and conducted business meetings. Following
its success in 2008, the V&A is looking forward to another exciting and
ambitious Festival residency in 2010.
Left: 'Light Blub', 2008, by Pieke Bergmans, featured
in the exhibition 'In Praise of Shadows', curated by Jane
Withers at the London Design Festival at the V&A.
Below: 'Wasted', 2009, by Ian Douglas Jones, an installation
commissioned by Arts Co. It transformed the Tunnel Entrance
from the Underground into a sparkling silver cell. Constructed
from waste materials rescued from landfill, including foil-lined
tea-sacking and old fire-hose, this installation inspired debate
about sustainable design and the future of landfill.