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The Victoria and Albert Museum

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by Kat Parr Mackintosh (subscribe)
Young and coffee in varying degrees, Kat also says stuff @ThoroughlyMode
Published January 12th 2010
The Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum, is neatly packed with notable pieces of decorative art and design made over the past three thousand years. Some of the four and a half million collectables are art. Some quite classical art. But beyond the paintings and sculptures, some of the pieces on display are the flotsam and jetsam of daily life: glasses and glasses, stained glass windows and mirrors from great old churches and houses and less auspicious old bottles from old pubs etc.

The museum's collection of metalwork, jewellery, ceramics, textiles, sculpture, printing, drawings, miniatures, silverware and religious artefacts are world renowned, but the British Galleries, the Italian Renaissance collection, and the collection of casts of some of Europe's great stonework attract the most visitors through the front doors.

The building is an exhibit in its own right, a collage of old and new styles and materials, like an architect's scrapbook. Gazing upwards to accommodate a dropping jaw, the central dome comes into focus, surrounded by polished stone in a revival of the classical style, augmented by a tangled mess of sea shaded glass tentacles, which is a chandelier by Dale Chihuly.

The British Galleries house royal treasures: Henry the Eighth's writing box, suits of armour, royal wedding regalia, ancient oak panels and tapestries from a hunting lodge and an entire music room, a grand gilt filled space more opera house than room. Amongst the statues in the sculpture galleries are works by Rodin and Canova, as well as busts and memorials from the gardens and follies of the gentry.

For dedicated followers of fashion, the
fashion gallery traces the history of European fashionable dress from the beginning of the 18thCentury to today, with examples from some of the best designers of each era, from crinolines to Chanel to Mary Quant. Entering the gallery from the sculpture hall will take you past one of the V&A's most popular pieces: a dress made by Catherine Walker for Princess Diana. It's covered in bubble like pearls that can't have been comfortable to sit on.

cafe is equally well designed, a fusion of modern lines and the attractively aged, and the courtyard fountain tempts small children, but also acts as a mirror showing off the architecture. The V&A store is a good place to Christmas shop for hard to please relatives, and the jewellery gallery, whose assets include a necklace given as a gift by Napoleon, will make Tiffanys sick with jealousy.
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Why? To see how we used to live, and appreciate a whole history worth of art and design. And visit the stylish cafe and shop.
When: 10.00 to 17.45 daily 10.00 to 22.00 Fridays
Where: Cromwell Rd, London, SW7, nearest tube South Kensington
Cost: Free, except for special exhibitions
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