Victoria and Albert Museum
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Address: Cromwell Road, SW7 2RL
Phone: (+44) (0)20 7942 2000
Nearest Tube: South Kensington on the District, Circle and Piccadilly lines, and Gloucester Road.
Buses: C1, 14, 74 and 414.
Hours: 10am-5.45pm daily, 10am-10pm Fridays. Closed: 24, 25, 26 December.
Admission to the V&A is free. Some exhibitions and events carry a separate charge. There are free guided tours.
The V&A is a few minutes' walk of South Kensington tube station, on the corner of Cromwell Road and Exhibition Road.
The V and A houses what is generally regarded as the world's greatest collection of applied and decorative arts, displayed in beautiful surroundings. What are decorative arts? They are the arts for the design and decoration of objects that are useful as well as beautiful: ceramics, glassware, basketry, pottery, jewelry, metalware, furniture, textiles, clothing, and similar are the main examples. The separation of decorative from fine arts is a modern distinction.
There are several places to eat and shop within the museum. Pick up a map before exploring, or a guidebook covering the highlights of the collections.
The V&A offers free talks and tours, lectures, live jazz and other music, guest DJs, debates, guest speakers. Throughout the year, it has a program of special events, exhibitions and activities.
The museum was founded at a different location in 1852, when the British government established the Museum of Manufacturers in Marlborough House, St. James, containing a collection of decorative arts objects previously displayed at the Crystal Palace during the Great Exhibition of 1851, in the wake of the Great Exhibition's huge success and funded with profits from the Exhibition.
The collection soon outgrew its premises, and plans for a new museum were developed. In 1857 the same items were transferred to the V&A's current location, although it was then known as the South Kensington Museum.
Its goal from the start was to make works of art available to all, as part of a government effort to educate working people, and to improve taste, knowledge and inspiration of British manufactures and designers.
The museum was renamed the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1899, when Queen Victoria laid the cornerstone for the present building, designed by Sir Aston Webb. This structure opened in 1909.
Since then, the museum's premises have been modified and extended, partly into adjacent buildings. The collection has also been enlarged. The Victoria and Albert Museum is also responsible for another museum in London which is its branch: the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood, in the borough of Tower Hamlets.
CONTENTS & HIGHLIGHTS
In a few hours exploring the Victoria and Albert Museum you'll find treasures from all over the world and from all ages, with collections dating from 3000 BC. The exhibits are of the most varied sorts, and include paintings, sculpture, prints photographs, books, silver, carpets.
Among its most interesting galleries are the British Galleries 1500-1900, the world's main collection of British art and design. These 15 state-of-the-art galleries have interactive exhibits, audio-visual displays and objects to handle, outlining the history of British art and design from the Tudor age to the Victorian era.
The museum contains a remarkable collection of reproductions in the Cast Courts, two vast halls. While not originals, these copies are often in better condition than the real things, and this is one of the few remaining collections of such objects.
The Dress Gallery contains a collection of clothing. The Whiteley Silver Galleries showcase almost 3,000 pieces of British and other European silver from the Middle Ages to today.
The Victoria & Albert Museum houses vast tableaux of European sculpture, ceramics (including porcelain and other pottery), furniture, metalwork, jewelry, and textiles from early Medieval times to the present day.
It includes the Jones bequest of French furniture, porcelain, and other objets d'art; the Schreiber group of English ceramics, enamelwork, and glass; the Currie collection, containing fine Italian and French arms and armour; and 18th-century German porcelain that forms part of the Murray collection.
The East Asian artworks include remarkable Chinese ceramics, jade, and sculpture from the Eumorfopoulos collection.
The museum houses the national collection of British watercolours, miniatures, prints, and drawings, among which is an outstanding group of works by John Constable. The collections of Italian Renaissance and Baroque sculptures are some of the best outside Italy.
In the V&A you can also find the National Art Library, open to the public as a major public reference library of fine and decorative arts of many countries and ages.
VICTORIA & ALBERT MUSEUM SHOP
Address: Cromwell Road, SW7
(+44) (0)20 7942 2000
The V&A has the most beautiful of all London museum gift shops, with its marbled and gated entrance just inside the main front entrance to the museum. Jewellery, inspired by designs from the museum's collections, is as tastefully displayed as any of the exhibits found in the galleries of the museum itself. Lovers are richly catered for by the intaglios range of Italian inspiration, containing items like 9-carate gold earrings and necklaces, or 19th-century romantic jewellery, where vintage collages combine with original metal casings. Prices range from £ 40 to 100 and upwards.
Another strong point of the shop is its collection of books for sale, among which of particular interest are those on fashion, textiles and European treasures. Other perfect gift ideas may include etched-glass coasters, paperweights, notebooks, all of which are less than £ 10, and Limoges pottery plates or hand-cast brass pots based on 16th-century Mogul design, costing £ 30 - 50 upwards. Table napkins and Christmas tree decorations with a Victorian theme on sale here are festive accessories of much more refined style than usual.
Shops stock an extensive selection of art and design books, gifts, stationery, specially commissioned jewellery, ceramics, textiles and gifts for children.
Website of the museum: Victoria and Albert Museum