Afternoon at the Victoria and Albert Museum

I swapped the noisy streets of London, for a quiet and peaceful wander in the V and A Museum. If there’s a place I continuously find myself returning to, then it’s the V and A. The familiarity of reaching the beetling museum quarter feels like home every time I walk out of the tunnel at South Kensington station. I accessed the museum through its main rotating doors on Cromwell Road, under the watchful eyes of prominent figures, carved above the entrance arch. Once inside the welcoming atmosphere, I was greeted by the stretched arms of security guards, ready to check my bags (safety first).

The wonderment begins in the central lobby just before entering any of the galleries. Here I found many other visitors gazing up with their phones raised towards the ceiling, taking worms-eye-view pictures of Dale Chihuly’s enormous glass chandelier; hanging from the three-story-high dome.

Walking on I headed straight for the shop just opposite the reception desk (my shopaholic instincts kicking in). A trip to a museum isn’t complete until I’ve spent some quality time in the gift store. On a daily, their queues exceed further than those for exhibitions (depending on what expo it is). They’re stocked with must-have limited edition prints, fancy collectables and stylish homewares. With one longing gaze at the creative biscuit tins and my camera was out. 

Just to the left of the shop is the Islamic Middle Eastern gallery. I made my way towards the centre of the gallery, walking around one of the largest carpets I or even the world has ever seen. Concealed within an un-reflective glass case, the low ceiling container is only lit for 10 minutes every half an hour to preserve the carpets rich colours. Reading a little background history of the carpet, I learnt William Morris had described it as a “singular perfection, logically and consistently beautiful”. Indeed it is. 

The rest of the gallery is an assortment of themes. With the broad use of Arabic script found on ornaments and architectural tiles. The collections span from Europe to the Middle East and North Africa. Lush techniques differed through regions, interconnecting cultures into a memorable chorus. Here I got to admire giant pages augmented with monumental calligraphy. A towering minbar (mosque-pulpit) featuring maze-like geometry. Vibrant tilework of all shapes and sizes, behind which lie mathematical aesthetics. And, other fine craftsmanship.

Hours later I Left the Islamic Art gallery to ponder through the rest of the museum, sadly not making it to all the corners. There are many halls and rooms to see, enough to take up the whole afternoon. That being said, one visit is never enough. A second trip is definitely in the plans, this time to spend a little more time in the exquisite cafe.

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