Overwhelmed by Opulence at the V&A European Galleries

Meissen table fountain 1745 V&AThe V&A have been redoing their Europe 1600 to 1815 Galleries for ages. So long, in fact, that we were beginning to think that they would never reopen. But, just before Christmas they did, and Yannick and I rushed down to take a look. The new galleries hold over a thousand objects of 17th and 18th century European art and design in a suite of seven galleries, including some of the most magnificent works held by the V&A. Continue reading

A different kind of festive tree – Kalpataru at the V&A

V&A Christmas treeWith Christmas Day galloping towards us at a rate of knots, I thought I’d bring you a Christmas tree with a difference. It’s this year’s Christmas tree installation at the Victoria and Albert Museum and it’s quite literally a tree of light. Continue reading

Gold and glass and Hello Kitty – the refurbished Toshiba Gallery of Japanese Art at the V&A

Kimono design V&AThe V&A have just reopened their refurbished Toshiba Gallery of Japanese Art so, as you would expect, Yannick and I rushed down to have a look. And guess what? We really liked it. It’s a lovely mixture of of over five hundred objects, both old favourites and new acquisitions, all displayed in a layout reminiscent of a traditional Japanese house. Continue reading

Barnaby Barford’s Tower of Babel at the V&A

Barnaby Barford Tower of Babel

This year’s London Design Festival has just kicked off, so Yannick and I rushed down to the V&A to take a look. Rushed a bit early, as it turned out, but it meant we got an excellent sneak preview of Barnaby Barford’s Tower of Babel, a conical pile of china shops which has been sited in the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries, making for an interesting contrast with the sculptures on display. Continue reading

Lacquer at the V&A

Lacquer cabinet at V&A

It’s all very well, rushing around town as I do to discover new and sometimes fleeting exhibitions, but it occurred to me recently that all this activity has led me to overlook the treasures that reside in the permanent collections of the museums and galleries that make London such a wonderful place to be. So I’ve decided to do an occasional series focusing on the objects you can see for free anytime you want – starting with the Japan gallery at the Victoria and Albert Museum and its fabulous collection of lacquer. Continue reading

Pearls at the V&A

Mikimoto pearl scarfI wonder who found the first pearl? It was a long time ago – pearls have been around since Roman times, gradually going from having religious connotations to being used as symbols of love or grief by the European aristocracy in the nineteenth century. The Victoria and Albert Museum’s autumn blockbuster exhibition, Pearls, which opened yesterday, puts these fabulous jewels from the past and present on display.  Continue reading

Maki-e – Gold sprinkled on lacquer

Shokan Matsuda maki-e bowl

Shokan Matsuda, master of maki-e (decorated lacquerware, made by sprinkling wet lacquer with metallic powder, usually gold or silver), and his pupils have to come to the UK, with an exhibition of their work at Chelsea College of Art and Design and a series of workshops where you can learn to make maki-e too. I’ve been to the exhibition and also visited one of their first workshops, at the V&A, so I can tell you just what to expect if you sign up. Continue reading

Edmund de Waal’s actual Hare with Amber Eyes

Hare with amber eyes

Photograph: Martin Argles/Guardian

If you’ve read Edmund de Waal’s wonderful book, The Hare with Amber Eyes, you’ll know it’s the story of a collection of netsuke owned by his family which miraculously survived through the wars and turbulence of the 20th century. The hare was his favourite of the collection – and now you have a chance to see the actual hare netsuke at the In a Nutshell exhibition at the Japanese Embassy. Continue reading

Lacquer, Japanning and Eileen Gray – the new furniture gallery at the V&A

Lacquer and mother-of-pearl cofferI’m not usually quick off the mark, so left to myself I probably wouldn’t have got around to the new Dr Susan Weber Furniture Gallery at the Victoria and Albert Museum before the spring, but Yannick rushed off to see it virtually as soon as it opened so I tagged along. And found it much more interesting than I expected.  Continue reading

Lolita fashion – little girl street style at the V&A

Sweet LolitaLolita fashion is that oh-so-sweet little-girl-in-a children’s-picture-book way of elaborate dressing-up that originated in Harajuku in Tokyo and has spread round the world.  Japan Matsuri in October had a Lolita fashion display by the Tea Party Club and Hyper Japan, coming up at Earls Court from 23-25 November, promises us a Kawaii style fashion show including Sweet and Classic Lolita fashion, Wa-Lolita, Kawaii Kimono style, Gal, Pop-Kei (including fairy -kei), and Pastel Goth.

Confused? Not to worry. The V&A have a small but very focused Lolita fashion exhibition called Kitty and the Bulldog which will help you get a grip.  Continue reading