A new 20th and 21st Century Gallery at the V&A

Design, Architecture and Digital
October 28, 2019

In November we will close the museum’s 20th Century Gallery (Rooms 74 and 76). After almost 30 years of telling the story of 20th Century design it is time for a change. The Rapid Response Collecting Gallery (Room 74a), which opened in 2014, will close at the same time. Both will reopen in summer 2020.

Over the last 18 months we have been working on a new curatorial vision for these galleries, aiming to tell a different story of 20th and 21st Century, focused on design and society.

Penguin Donkey bookcase and WOBO bottles
Penguin Donkey bookcase by Egon Riss for Isokon, 1939. Museum no. W.19:1 to 3-1993. Given by Mr J. E. Tinkler. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London; WOBO bottles by John Habraken for Heineken, 1963. Museum no. C.22-2016. Given by Heineken Collection Foundation. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

This autumn and winter we are decanting all the objects and returning them to storage. This is so that we can refresh the lighting and the interiors of the cases and create new areas for rest and reflection.

The new 20th and 21st Century galleries at the V&A are due to open to the public in June 2020. They will be renamed Design (1900 – Now) and the curatorial narrative aims to position design as a means for understanding the way we live together, and to explore how designed things prompt us to ask questions of our past, present and future.

Mae West Lips sofa and Nuclear Fallout Shelter
Mae West Lips sofa by Salvador Dali and Edward James, 1937 – 38. Museum no. W.6-2018. Purchased with support from V&A Members, Art Fund and a bequest from Derek Woodman. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Nuclear Fallout Shelter by US Department of Defence, 1962. Museum no. CD.19:1-2016. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Our Rapid Response Collecting activities will continue during the closure and when the new galleries open, the programme will be presented in a new guise, integrated into the wider collection display.

We look forward to sharing more details with you as the project progresses.

Corinna Gardner and Johanna Agerman Ross, Lead Curators 


1 comment so far, view or add yours


Thanks for that helpful update. It’s great news that these rooms are being updated, as Room 74 has seemed dark and relatively uninspiring to visit in the few years I’ve known it.
The RRC space is one of my favourite to explore – seeing what’s new and why it’s there – and a rare moment that my teenage son enjoys visiting.
I’m keen to see the displays and interpretation share clearer connections in design thinking and products between the previous century and this one, so I look forward to seeing how the project develops.

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