It was always there, standing to the side, hoping I would notice and go in, but I never had. Not until last year, when there was the exhibition for Grace Kelly, then I went with my girlfriend. The exhibition was ok, but what I noticed as we wandered in off the tunnel from South Kensington tube, was that the V&A had sculpture. I love sculpture, but I never realised there was any there. I had never really paid any attention to the V&A at all, a design museum you say? mmmm ok.
So today I packed my camera and headed over. On the way to my tube station, I passed the church near my flats. The Reverend was outside with what I assumed was a small choir. The brilliant white robes of the choir contrasted sharply in the lukewarm morning sun with the Reverends deep black. I was thinking about grabbing a photo of the church as I went passed, and wondered if I might be able to grab this small gathering in the front of it. As I walked past they moved off, almost as one, and glided into the church, like a flock of swans flowing down a river.
2 tube changes later I was at the V&A, again entering through the basement and into the sculpture gallery. With no definitive plan in mind I thought I might only do a certain portion of it, to save my legs and to take in everything I saw. Within 5 minutes I had browsed through the Asian sculpture gallery, and had a wry smile at some of the Private Eye front covers, in a special presentation to mark it’s 50th anniversary. I wandered through the cafe and onto the European sculpture gallery, filled with stained glass windows and holy icons, barely stopping until I had crossed again back into Japan, China and Korea. The main gallery by the front (Cromwell Road) entrance is one of the most impressive, with sculptures from Italy, including Samson slaying a philistine, column capitals and other sculpted gems. In the Cast Courts gallery a family were wandering through, “Why would we want to look at Cast Courts?” the mum was moaning, not even taking a breath to appreciate not only the castings, but the great hall they were displayed in.
I grabbed a comfy seat the Islamic Middle East gallery, and waited a few minutes to see the carpet lit up (Unfortunately I can’t remember anything about it I read on the sign). I saw what I took to be a mother and daughter at the other end of the carpet, and felt some sort of relief that I wasn’t the only one that was waiting to see a rug. At the appointed time the carpet was illuminated and I stood up to take in the intricate detail and faded colours. The mother and daughter also got up and went over to meet the father and son who had just wandered in from another gallery. I carried on appreciating the carpet for another few minutes and was about to move on before the moaning mum and her family wandered through, almost completely oblivious to the antiquties mounted around them. I appreciated the rug for another few minutes.
The 2nd floor is Medieval and Renaissence Europe, and I didn’t dwell too long there. On the 3rd floor You get to walk round a few of the main display halls which offer excellent views. It also contains quite possibly the largest collection of wrought iron I have ever seen, gates, fences, well heads, benches (Please do not sit on this bench, You are welcome to sit down on this bench). I found myself around Theatre and Performance, before escaping through Silver and then Gold (lots), Silver (lots) and Mosiacs (none that I could see). Now I was in the 20th Century, the modern part of the museum, which contained nothing of interest to me and if I remember, nothing after 1970.
As I sat munching on my lunch after, I wished I had kept myself to one floor, at the most. I wandered through most of the galleries barely paying attention (Jewellery anyone?) but at the same time apart from the plethora of sculptures, most of the rest of the collection didn’t interest me. I think I will go back and look at the Asian galleries in more details but that’s probably it. It’s just not my bag…