Le Chic En Rose

Diaries of an independent traveller

 

With Monsieur Le Chic laid low back in our hotel with the flu and Mlle, our daughter, at work I found myself alone one day on our recent London trip wondering how to fill in my time! I didn’t feel inclined to go shopping (and my luggage allowances and credit card wouldn’t have thanked me) and I’d already had a walk round one of the local parks near our hotel earlier in the day. Since Mlle was heading down to South Kensington for work anyway, I decided to tag along and take up her suggestion of visiting one of the many museums in that neighbourhood. The area in the Brompton District (part of the London Borough Of Kensington and Chelsea) has taken on the moniker of “Albertropolis” owing to its close association with Prince Albert, the consort of Queen Victoria. A passionate supporter of scientific research, design, technology and the arts, Albert was instrumental in encouraging the foundation of many of the museums that you find today in the area including The Natural History Museum, The Science Museum and the one that bears the royal couple’s name, The Victoria and Albert Museum (now usually just abbreviated to the V&A). I wandered in from the Cromwell Road entrance, my eye caught initially by the large poster advertising, “Savage Beauty” the retrospective of Alexander McQueen’s work (more about that later!).

I can remember previous visits to both the Natural History and Science Museums and I’m sure in the dim and distant past I must have been to the V&A but apart from seeing their wedding fashion collection when it was on loan in Perth at the Western Australian Museum a couple of years back, I couldn’t remember much about it.Β The V&A styles itself as the “world’s greatest museum of art and design”. It has an enormous collection of design work and textiles, runs classes for school children, university students and mature aged students and promotes the preservation of ancient treasures along with cutting edge designs be they in art, sculpture or fashion. In short it has a vast collection, to which you couldn’t possibly do justice in one visit. However, like other national British museums, entry to the V&A has been free since 2001 so you can spend as long or short a time here as you like without feeling you haven’t got your money’s worth. Free admission doesn’t apply however to special exhibitions, so since there was a sizeable queue to see the Alexander McQueen retrospective, I decided to take myself round the free collections first in no particular order. There were no restrictions on taking photos in most of the collection areas apart from the special exhibitions. I loved the inscription high on the arch above the entrance foyer, “All Of This Belongs To You”. You really feel as if they wish to engage their visitors as much as possible and highlight their important preservation work and promotion of arts and design.

 

Entrance to the V&A London - welcoming notice in the foyer

Entrance to the V&A London – welcoming notice in the foyer

 

I wandered through “Religious Sculptures in Europe” from the Middle Ages and Tudor times.

 

Then I set off to explore Asia. I admired beautiful porcelain and antiquities from the Middle East as well as many fascinating Indian artefacts. Please excuse the quality of the photos! The light was rather dim and many of the photos were taken through glass so it was the best I could do. Certainly the photos don’t do justice to the magnificent colours and designs of many of the exhibits. I’ve tried to convey the impression of what it was like wandering around. I’m certainly no expert on the vast array of artefacts and exhibits I saw – I just viewed the items that caught my eye the most!

 

 

My favourite pieces were the costumes and fashion items. There were some lovely exhibits in the Indian section and a whole section devoted to the history of fashion, which had me enthralled (and would have bored Monsieur Le Chic to tears!). Here are some of the highlights!

 

Many of the dresses looked exquisite but must have been impractical to wear – I mean how could you even sit down in this one? Plus what tiny waists the ladies had in the 17th and 18th centuries!

Courtier's dress from the V&A history of fashion collection

Courtier’s dress from the V&A history of fashion collection

 

The V&A also has a large collection of textiles and the attention to detail in all the exhibits is superb.

 

Having spent a pleasant couple of hours wandering round the general exhibitions I found myself back in the foyer area again and noticed there was no one queuing at the desk. I casually enquired whether there were any tickets available for the Alexander McQueen special exhibition and was in luck as they hadn’t (most unusually) sold all the allocated tickets for the day. I hadn’t realised that people had booked ahead for months to see the “Savage Beauty” retrospective so I was incredibly lucky! “Savage Beauty” is an apt description of McQueen’s work – some of the work was quite confronting and at times even disturbing. He was clearly a complex and tortured soul. However the quality of his tailoring and workmanship was amazing – to be able to see his garments (every collection was featured) up close was a real treat. As I said earlier photography was strictly forbidden in the special collections (and enforced when a couple of people broke the rules!). Hence the only way I could illustrate it is by showing you some photos of the postcards I bought in the shop afterwards. My highlight was the beautiful tailoring of the “Widows Of Culloden” collection with gorgeous tartan and lace garments (some of them were almost wearable and have certainly filtered down into mainstream fashion).

The original runway show had ended with a hologram of Kate Moss in a floaty white gown being beamed onto the stage making her look like a ghost – we saw a film of this ethereal image, which was a standout feature of a wonderful exhibition. There are just a couple more days to go before “Savage Beauty” closes (last day Sunday 2 August 2015) so anyone in London this weekend might be able to pop down there to take a look – you never know there may still be a few tickets available!

 

Postcard of Kate Moss concluding McQueen's "Widows Of Culloden" runway show - V&A shop

Postcard of Kate Moss concluding McQueen’s “Widows Of Culloden” runway show – V&A shop

 

Travel Monkey

Copyright Β© 2015 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

37 thoughts on “Exploring London’s Iconic V&A Museum

  1. Lucy says:

    The porcelain and antiquities are very beautiful The Middle Eastern collection reminded me of Morocco. I just love the colors and the energy the items have. It looks like a wonderful museum. Glad you had fun. Lots of hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They are so beautiful aren’t they Lucy? Yes the colours are similar to the colours you would expect to find in Morocco (not that I’ve ever been there). I think many of them came from the old Ottoman Empire and modern day Iran. The V&A is a fantastic museum and the best part is that admission is free to the general collections – I only had to pay to go in to see the “Savage Beauty” exhibition. Hope you have a lovely weekend! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  2. KerryCan says:

    The is exactly what I would do with a free day in a major city–find an art museum! And how wonderful that you got to see Savage Beauty–I’ve been hearing great things about that show!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love art museums too as you can see! It was an unexpected bonus to get in to the “Savage Beauty” exhibition (though it’s really like fashion show!). I think it came from New York but I may be wrong – if so maybe you could get down to see it not sure where it’s headed off to next? Have an enjoyable weekend πŸ™‚

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  3. So envious you got to see Savage Beauty Rosemary – I was longing to see this exhibition but we just never got around to it. Love the look of the V&A as well, never been there – another one on the yet to see list – we’ve been to the Natural History and Science Museums though numerous times and absolutely love those. The fact there is free entry is something I’m very grateful about in this country!!

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    1. I know I was incredibly lucky Joy especially as I probably wouldn’t have gone to the V&A that day if Monsieur hadn’t been ill. I love fashions and designs etc but he wouldn’t have been at all interested. I’d also heard about “Savage Beauty” but honestly thought I wouldn’t have been able to get a ticket at that late stage. Hopefully it will be shown again as it really was incredible. I think I may have popped my nose in the V&A at some point when I was living in London but can’t remember going round properly before – it’s certainly well worth it! I think it’s wonderful that the museums and galleries have free entry in the Uk – it must encourage many more visitors and they must raise funds through special exhibitions, shops and possibly study classes and tours! πŸ™‚

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  4. Thanks for the visit. I have been to London many times but never manage to make it to this museum…maybe on our next visit. (Suzanne)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re very welcome Suzanne πŸ™‚ I’m sure you’d find plenty to interest you in the V&A – there’s a wide range of design items, sculptures, textiles, a history of fashion section and many beautiful artefacts from around the world. I’d highly recommend it! πŸ™‚

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  5. RachelW says:

    Great post! Love your blog πŸ™‚

    Rachel

    http://iridescentdays.wordpress.com/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Rachel for the compliment and visiting me here! Am glad you like the post and blog and will head out to have a browse round your blog too πŸ™‚

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      1. RachelW says:

        Awh thanks! πŸ™‚ xx

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        1. You’re very welcome Rachel! πŸ™‚

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  6. Anabel Marsh says:

    I contributed a small amount to the crowd funding for the Wolsey Angels, so it was lovely to see them in your photo. The V&A is fabulous and you’ve given a good impression of its range.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s great to know Annabel πŸ™‚ I’m glad I took a photo of them – I thought they were beautiful and it’s wonderful they are now “safe” in the V&A. It’s difficult to condense a place as big as the V&A into a short article so am glad you think I’ve given a good impression of its range! I’m definitely going to go back there again next time I’m in London πŸ™‚

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  7. I visited the NHM and the science museum, but never had time to visit the V&A museum.. I kind of regret it. It looks very interesting, especially the part about fashion and costumes !! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can well understand that you’d go to the Natural History and Science Museums first Gin – indeed that’s where I’d been before. The V&A is wonderful though and I just loved the fashion and costume exhibits! The fashion history is meticulously documented too – I found it all fascinating! πŸ™‚

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  8. kayrpea61 says:

    They do museums so well in London. Thanks for the memories, Rosemary

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re very welcome! The museums and galleries in London are superb – such a great national resource and wonderful places for visitors!

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  9. I vaguely remember going to the V&A when I was a child! I can’t wait until Monkey is old enough to visit too πŸ™‚ thank you for the reminder x #MondayEscapes

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Mudpie for visiting me from #Monday Escapes! πŸ™‚ I was the same about the V&A – I had vague recollections of going inside (the entrance looked familiar!) but certainly can’t remember having a good look round before. They have activities for children but I’m not sure what age they start from. It’s certainly a very interesting place and they have some great resources there. The shop is also a lovely place to visit and pick up some cards and gifts! Have a great week and look forward to another week of #MondayEscapes! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Your capture of the entry foyer to the V&A museum is magnificent. I love the angle. Perfect. Well done.

    And how lucky were you to get into the McQueen exhibit. Too bad you couldn’t take photos (although the postcards were incredible – especially that Kate Moss). I didn’t know of the exhibit until I read about it here, but now I wish I could go as you made it sound so interesting. Sadly, I will be home long after it closes.

    I thought the images that you took of the other exhibits came through very well in spite of the glass. The Courtiers’ Dress images were my favorite. Beautiful, albeit not the most comfortable attire.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Lisa for the lovely compliments! Am glad you liked the capture of the entrance foyer as I had a few attempts – I was really impressed with the design and the motto for the museum. I was so lucky to get in to the McQueen exhibit – pure chance! It shows it always pays to ask too as I could have easily assumed it would be sold out and not to bother. The exhibition was amazing – more like a theatrical show really with musical and atmospheric effects as you walked round. It’s been very popular so maybe they will do a rerun sometime or something similar (or maybe in another city, which you could visit on your travels?!). I’m also glad you liked the other images as it really wasn’t too easy to take photos through the glass and with the dim lighting, but it does add to the authenticity of being in a museum. All the other exhibits, apart from the McQueen ones, are permanent exhibitions and some of the fashions in the McQueen show may well belong to the V&A, so it’s well worth visiting the museum when you’re in the Uk. I love looking at the exquisite dresses with the tiny waists even if it must have been so uncomfortable to actually wear them!Have a lovely week! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I really really want to go here. I love McQueen and I would want to see his creations! Thanks for sharing as I dont think I can ever go. #MondayEscapes

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Merlinda for visiting from #MondayEscapes – lovely to meet you. Am glad I could share some of my experiences of the McQueen exhibition with you. I’m sorry I couldn’t take photos of the actual exhibition but at least I could buy some postcards and give everyone an idea of the exhibition. His work was incredible – such beautiful tailoring and wonderful creations! I’ll head over your way too and visit your blog too, thanks for visiting me here πŸ™‚

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  12. restlessjo says:

    Fabulous, Rosemay! πŸ™‚ My daughter has spent many happy hours here and drawn inspiration from these garments on a number of occasions. I’ve only been a couple of times but loved it too. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jo! πŸ™‚ It is a dream place for anyone interested in fashion and design. There were people sketching away as I walked through – they were part of an art class I think. It’s much more than a museum with so many resources and I enjoyed browsing round the shop too. I’ll keep going back to the V&A whenever I get the chance! πŸ™‚

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  13. Great review of one of my favourite museums in London. I also went to see Savage Beauty a few months back, so that was the last time I was there. I loved the collection and the fluidity of the exhibition from one room to another. The Kate Moss hologram was amazing. I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t long enough! My favourite part of the museum is the John Madjeski gardens and fountains – I still haven’t taken Monkey there yet for a splash! Glad you had a great time exploring and thank you for sharing on #MondayEscapes

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Ting – wasn’t the Savage Beauty exhibition amazing? I loved the Kate Moss hologram with the musical score it was so haunting and melodramatic! Must have been incredible to see at the original runway show! I didn’t go in to the John Madjeski gardens and see the fountains – must go there next time. I think the V&A is a wonderful resource and will definitely be going back next time I’m lucky enough to be in London. I also think it’s wonderful that the permanent exhibits there are free – it’s a great place in which to wander round and enjoy spending some time:) Look forward to more #MondayEscapes! πŸ™‚

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  14. Fascinating! The dresses from 17th and 18th centuries were gorgeous but I agree with you, they were impractical! It looks like you had a fruitful day πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Indah – yes the dresses look amazing but I can’t see how you’d get around and do very much! I think the ladies must have stood round and looked decorative – I hope they didn’t have to wear those dresses all day long! Hope you’re having a lovely week πŸ™‚

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  15. colibrist says:

    So cool that these collections can be seen for free! “All this belongs to you”, I like this spirit πŸ™‚ I’m really impresed! Thanks for sharing, happy travels πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Laia – isn’t the spirit of the motto lovely?! It’s a national resource for all citizens and visitors. You could spend many happy hours in the V&A! Hope your travels are going well and that you had a good time with your family in Canada. I will head your way and check out the blog! Happy travels πŸ™‚

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      1. colibrist says:

        Yes, I had a good time with my family in Canada, it was great to see them again! I felt lonely for a couple of days on my return, but now I’m fine again and on the road πŸ™‚
        Happy travels!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Great to hear that you had a good time with your family Laia. Yes you would have felt a bit lonely when they first left – our daughter felt the same when she went back to London after staying here in Perth for a couple of weeks. Saw you were in South America from your facebook page so I’ll catch up with your recent posts very soon. Happy travels πŸ™‚

          Liked by 1 person

  16. Anna says:

    Ξ™ love VA! I’ve visited many times, especially when a special exhibition is on! from the permanent collections I love the tiles from Uzbekistan #mondayescapes

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    1. Thanks Anna and lovely to meet you via #mondayescapes. If I lived nearer I’d be there a lot – they have a shoe exhibition on at present, which I gather is well worth visiting! Thanks for calling by and I will head over to your blog soon too! πŸ™‚

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