15 December 2015

Europe 1600 - 1815 V&A

Sometimes when writing a review, I find I just have to give in and say Wow. Lucky enough to be able to go through these newly opened galleries at the press view, both visitors and museum staff were wowed by the substantial treasures in display.

How often we are told that certain oversized and overblown works were commissioned in order to impress - giant mirrors or cabinets, large and impractical decorative objects. Well, they still impress with awesome skill in ambitious scale.

Normally I write a review very soon after seeing exhibitions, but this time I waited to see if other thoughts occurred. It's like reviewing a whole fabulous new museum of a time when much was hand made, and yet the beginnings of mass production and exotic imports saw craft skills in full bloom, seeking to impress with flamboyant solidity.

Critique of the work is not really possible, but critique of the V&A's museum practice, upon reflection, comes out as top notch. The most sophisticated research results in a seamless journey through time. Information is there to check, but doesn't get in the way or impose upon the work. Lighting adds atmosphere and drama, and seats allow contemplation. There is so much work here, a really generous store of treasures that is nonetheless not crammed in.

The wonder is where all this stuff been until now. We know that national museums have most of their objects in archive or storage. Some items are rotated and displayed eventually, or in special displays, while other never make it into public view, perhaps because their time never quite comes, or because they may be too fragile. This new permanent section of the V&A raises the tantalising prospect that there are still plenty of high quality pieces lurking in the shadows, waiting for the limelight of public viewing.

1600 - 1815 is a large scope of time and history. The more you bring to this exhibition, knowledge of music, social history, European history, diseases, culture, literature,,,the richer it will be. These are the props and aesthetics of life before modern times, and sparks the imagination and sensibilities of what life would be like in that other place - the exuberant grandeur of the past.

Europe 1600-1815


15th December 2015

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