Saturday, January 30, 2010

V&A Medieval and Renaissance Gallery

The much-hyped medieval and renaissance gallery, opened last December, at the Victoria and Albert Museum (aka V&A) indeed beautifully showcases European design from the Middle Ages. Or I should not use the term "showcase" because they do much more than simply putting items in showcases.

Enter the museum from Cromwell Road and take the staircases on the right downstairs. Here you learn Romanesque and Gothic styles of design visually, because the first thing you will see is:

Then in the next room you encounter:


Like other newly-renovated galleries such as The Jameel Gallery on Islamic art and The Dorothy and Michael Hintze Galleries on sculpture, the V&A is very good in this gallery, too, at displaying objects in a way that enhances their attractiveness: 
Go upstairs to the ground floor. There the V&A has transformed the gallery space into a medieval court yard with the glass roof letting the sunlight fall. The view from the first floor balcony (pictured right) is elegant. 
The first floor gallery rooms feature Renaissance art. Here I do feel a completely different atmosphere, and I personally find it uneasy. The Renaissance style is too well-organized. It even feels a bit pretentious. That's my personal take, but it also means that the V&A succeeds in transforming the general theme underlying Renaissance into the gallery's vibes before explaining what Renaissance is about in words.

Before encountering the V&A during my life in London, I didn't understand the merit of visiting museums at all. The V&A changed my idea of a museum completely. They display objects as if they were decorating the living room. They present the whole gallery space as something pleasant to stay in. That helps visitors really appreciate the displayed objects. If you hate museums, think again when it comes to the V&A.

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