Today, I am delighted to announce the news we have all waited months to say: the V&A’s doors are reopening on 6 August 2020.
Together with our South Kensington and Albertopolis neighbours, we greatly look forward to welcoming back our visitors, Members and supporters once more, to explore, discover, learn and be inspired in our beautiful and airy galleries and courtyards.
Museums speak to the creative and resilient power of the human spirit, but also live through the conversation between object and visitor. Our collections belong to the public, to be discussed, challenged, and loved: a role of particular significance as we reflect on current debates around crucial issues including racial equality, social justice, and climate change.
The V&A is here to champion creativity, spark the imagination and inspire the next generation. And so, from 6 August our seven miles of galleries in South Kensington will reopen in phases, with a range of exciting exhibition and gallery openings unfolding over the next few months, including the return of Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk, launch of Bags: Inside Out, unveiling of the refurbished Raphael Court and a refreshed gallery of 20th and 21st century ‘Design: 1900-Now’ – speaking to the more diverse, global conversations the V&A is committed to pursuing.
We have worked closely with governmental bodies to ensure that all the latest guidance and safety measures are in place across the V&A so that your visit will be safe and enjoyable, from timed tickets to plentiful sanitiser, and a range of optional trails that bring the highlights of the V&A to life.
Our wide Victorian galleries have ample space for social distancing, serendipitous discovery and joyful escapism. You can read more about all the new measures here. We happen to also have a number of ‘Do Not Touch’ signs here and there too…
Despite closing our doors in March, South Kensington has not lain dormant. Under the watchful eyes of our ever-present security team, the National Art Library – the largest of its kind in the world – now has new roof, and we’re also replacing the floor in the V&A’s much-loved café with beautiful new tiles from the Veneto. We have also worked hard with colleagues and DCMS officials to secure a funding package which means we can reopen in a sustainable manner, given the collapse in our commercial income.
Audiences around the world have embraced digital culture over the past months, and the V&A has championed a range of new initiatives during lockdown. Our curators have been judiciously selecting objects that chart the design response to COVID-19 in our new Pandemic Objects series, and with the V&A home to the Glastonbury archive, we celebrated the 50th anniversary with a seven-day Glastonbury extravaganza. And after the doors closed on our new Kimono exhibition after two painfully short weeks, we brought this brilliant exhibition to audiences digitally in a series of short films – which secured Time Out’s best digital arts experience award last week. Our digital activity remains an area of great significance to us, but I also can’t hide my own personal delight at opening up our physical spaces again. Nothing quite beats the authentic power of the artefact.
Casting back to a pre-closure period, which feels like a long time ago, 2019/20 was an exceptional one for the V&A, with record breaking attendance to exhibitions from Dior to Mary Quant (available again in Dundee soon). While we anticipate that it may take some time to build our visitor numbers back up after the pandemic, we are looking forward to an exciting year ahead, with exhibitions on the history of bags, 5000 years of Iranian culture, and an immersion into the world of Alice in Wonderland. Progress continues on the V&A’s family of museums, with work underway on the V&A’s two new museums at V&A East, and (during its closure) the complete reimagining of the Museum of Childhood – two transformative projects that will bring the V&A to new entirely generations and champion creativity for all.
While our doors were closed, the Black Lives Matter protests and public conversation around structural racism led us to look again at the practices and voice of our own institution. As a museum born of the colonial moment, we have a particular responsibility to understand the roots of contemporary racism and our responsibility to be an anti-racist organisation. By the time the V&A returns to operational capacity, we will have established an Anti-Racism Taskforce while at the end of August visitors will be able to take a digital version of our African Heritage trail through South Kensington as we begin a much more strategic focus on foregrounding and growing our Afro-Caribbean collections.
Your support over the past four months has been invaluable, and I would like to thank all of our Members, donors and followers for the ongoing contributions and kind messages we have received during closure. With restricted numbers and a challenging business environment, your generosity makes the work of the museum possible. Every time you make a donation, buy a cup of tea, become a member or visit an exhibition, you are supporting the V&A, and helping us realise our mission to make art, design and performance available to all.
We look forward providing you all with a warm (socially-distanced) welcome on 6 August but until then, do continue to stay in touch online. See you soon. The objects await.