Possessed of refined taste and a certain panache, the Monkey is no stranger to museums. In this set of photos from July 2010, the Monkey examines a few of the treasures at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum.
The Victoria and Albert Museum is named for—wait for it—the former monarch, Queen Victoria, and her husband, Prince Albert. Founded in 1852, the V&A (as many call it) unabashedly proclaims itself “the world’s greatest museum of art and design”. While a few other museums may challenge that assertion, the Monkey is willing to grant that the V&A’s extensive collection of decorative and practical items—from ceramics and furniture to jewelry, clothing, and sculptures—is certainly world-class.
The museum is housed in several purpose-built wings, the first of which dates from 1857. In this photo, the Monkey prepares to approach the Grand Entrance to the V&A.
Perhaps the Monkey’s favorite area of the V&A is the Cast Courts. These spacious halls are crammed full of plaster casts of ancient, medieval, and renaissance sculptures and architectural details. Although they are all later (mostly 19th Century) reproductions of original works, the fact that the casts have been displayed indoors has meant that in some cases they are in better condition than the originals that remained exposed to the elements.
In this photo shot from a walkway above one of the Cast Courts, the Monkey is awed by the intricate swirling relief sculptures of two huge sections of the cast of Trajan’s Column, an ancient monument in Rome, Italy.
Besides its permanent collection, the V&A also mounts many temporary exhibitions. While the Monkey was in town in July 2010, one of these special exhibits was called 1:1 Architects Build Small Spaces. As the name suggests, the exhibition invited several architects to design minuscule yet functional spaces which were then placed throughout the museum.
It was good fun to see a child’s sense of wonder aroused in so many adult visitors clamoring to enter the scaled-down structures. Here, the Monkey prepares to ascend into Terunobu Fujimori’s Beetle’s House.
After climbing a ladder into Fujimori’s tiny cottage on stilts, the Monkey felt right at home in the Beetle’s House. There was even a kettle for tea.
Another of the small-scale exhibits was Norwegian firm Rintala Eggertsson’s Ark. Cleverly situated by the staircase to the National Art Library (housed in the museum), Ark was a library of its own that complied with the small spaces motif while also flipping the script: Inside the structure, a winding stairwell offers access to the book stacks and small reading nooks, yet from the exterior visitors feel rather dwarfed by the tower, which resembles an oversized version of Ikea’s modular shelving.
The Monkey pauses for a photo inside Ark. Visitors were encouraged to choose a book from the shelves and read within the structure, although interest was so piqued that most people made only a brief inspection of the structure out of consideration for their fellow guests.
The V&A’s scope is very broad, spanning many forms of art and design as well as a fair few centuries. In this shot, the Monkey encounters some 20th and 21st Century works, from a sleek sofa to the iconic poster for the Solidarnosc trade union of 1980s Poland. The Monkey even spotted a few items that emerged since he started his travels, from an early Apple iMac to a poster for Danny Boyle’s 1996 cult classic, Trainspotting.
(By the way, the Monkey checked and it was alright to sit on the cool couch.)
After departing the museum, the Monkey spotted this modern marvel built into the wall of his bargain hotel room in Paddington. Design is everywhere, boys and girls. And radio station A rocks.
This Monkey adventure has been viewed 3350 times since the 2010 website relaunch.