This is one of my favourite places to go in London. It’s permanent exhibitions provide materials to view for years of visits and the temporary exhibitions are always important and interesting.
Today we went to see one of those special temporary exhibitions, this one entitled Postmodernism, Style and Subversion 1970-1990. Unsurprisingly, photography was not allowed, so I cannot show you anything of what we saw. You can have a look at the V&A’s exhibition Web page, or if you live within striking distance of London, go and see it yourself!
Photography is allowed throughout the V&A in the permanent exhibitions. As we walked through, our attention was attracted by this unusual staircase.
The staircase is decorated throughout with ceramic tiles sumptuously moulded. A painted ceiling graces the landing, representing the pursuit of Art by Man.
Henry Cole, the first director of the V&A, had hoped to apply the same decorative scheme throughout the whole museum but it soon turned out to by too expensive to do so.
The pillars, decorated with ceramic tiles like the staircase seem guarded by a metal leopard. It is a replica of one of a pair of silver-gild leopards made in 1600-1 and sold in 1627 by Charles I to the Tsar of Russia. The originals are currently in the Kremlin.
We passed this gallery whose theme is “Design since 1945” but what interested me, as a onetime library worker, is that it seems to be an old library.
The walls are lined with shelves and these are full of books.
I wonder whether these books are still referred to sometimes or whether they are now left untouched.
Some of these venerable tomes might be valuable as well as historically interesting. For example, I have seen Emerson’s Old Bridges of France (9th from right on the top shelf) offered for $400.
In another gallery this well known but elegant piece by Demetre Chiparus (1888-1950) caught my eye. It is an example of his chryselephantine technique, a word that simply means he combined bronze and ivory. The work was cast in Paris around 1927 and is well known because many copies were made in three different sizes. Called “Friends Forever” it has a touch of sentimentality about it but is perhaps saved by the fine modelling though it is not seen at its best in a photo taken through glass.
On the way past the Royal Academy, we went into the courtyard of Burlington House. There are often open-air exhibitions there with interesting or quirky artworks. We were not disappointed because we found the above. Is it a sculpture, an architect’s model, or a reproduction?
It is in fact a 1:40 scale model of a building planned by Ttalin in 1919-20 as a monument to the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 and to serve as HQ for the Comintern. This ambitious project, which included a radio station and three structures rotating at different speeds, was never realized. The model was built to accompany the RA’s exhibition Building the Revolution: Soviet Art and Architecture 1915-1935 (29 Oct 2011-22 Jan 2012).