If you want somewhere to go that provides drama, art, surprises, an oasis of calm and a restaurant that reflects the fact that it is housed in the largest decorative arts and design museum in the world there’s only one place to go – The V & A.
As the name suggests, the Victoria and Albert museum was opened in 1857 by Queen Victoria. If you go on a weekday in non-holiday time, once you step inside the door you leave the hurly burly of London’s busy Cromwell Road behind.
The courtyard is an ideal place to start, and also to catch your breath and absorb the Victorian architecture that surrounds you in a protective square, containing a contemporary pool of water that is used as a wadding pool on warm days by young children and a cafe serving tea and coffee in beautifully branded V & A cups.
The V & A has specialised in recent years in exhibitions of prominent artists. The first one I attended was Anne Lennox – it was the story of her journey from her early days with Dave Stewart in their first artistic incarnation as The Tourists through to the Eurythmics, ending with the artist that she is today. Letters, lyrics, dollhouses and workspaces, it was like a journey not unlike the one Alice made in Wonderland – no sight of the end, no knowing what you would see next.
The next one was the sell-out Bowie exhibition – this one was bigger, and more sensory in every way. It culminated in an enormously high ceilinged room with screenings of gigs, interviews, quotes in neon lights and a beautiful display of his iconic outfits through the eras and his constant reinventions as a performer and an artist.
The current exhibition is entitled Savage Beauty and celebrates the life, career and designs of Alexander McQueen. It is extraordinary, magical, ethereal and moving. If you want to see something that provokes emotion, displays unprecedented creativity in couture and is also stunningly beautiful, tickets are still available.
The other important consideration for a good day out is lunch! The restaurant at the V & A is a mash up of a minimalist contemporary style and an arts and craft William Morris on acid experience – everything is embellished – stained glass windows, relief tiled walls and pillars. There’s even a grand piano that gives the whole space an air of splendour and luxury.
A new exhibition opened today – Shoes: Pleasure and Pain – prompting the discussion of the cultural significance and transformative capacity of shoes through the ages. Can’t wait. And did I mention that the V & A houses sculpture, design and art on an unprecedented scale?
Have you ever been? If not, have I persuaded you to go? S