Monday, 17 January 2011

When art and history come to life

Art and history is what I learnt about on Saturday and I don't think words can convey how much fun it was. I spent the afternoon at the Victoria and Albert Museum with a friend and it was truly wonderful. Not just for the company of course, but the setting was rather charming too.

Anyone who says they're not interested in this museum, because it's supposedly all about art and fashion and they have no interest in those two matters, simply haven't given it a chance. I cannot say I'm particularly interested in art, although I can appreciate it, I don't always understand it fully, and fashion, well, one only needs to have a look at my wardrobe and general attire to get the drift. Not really my thing. But this museum really is about a lot more than just that.

I have walked through it numerous times, wondered through galleries of sky high statues and diamond encrusted necklaces several times. I have enjoyed lunches and teas in the old fashioned cafe, gazing at the ornately decorated dome whilst listening to the enchanting music being played on the grand piano in the corner. But never, never have I enjoyed my time there more.

The reason for such enthusiasm? My friend and I joined a couple of tours. Free tours I should add. Yes indeed, education is there for all to grasp, you just have to reach out and take it. And take it we did, because we attended two tours, one after the other. We'd barely recovered from an hour of British Galleries, from James I to the Great Exhibition, when we were taken on an introductory tour of the V&A, admiring a selection of objects which truly brought the museum to life. It wasn't a simple building full of thousands and thousands of objects anymore, it had become all about the pride and joy of Prince Albert who felt very strongly about educating the masses and making art accessible to all, about statues given by the Grand Duke of Tuscany to Queen Victoria, about the shock a five meter high statue of a naked man (Michelangelo's David) caused and the 1 meter wide fig leaf subsequently commissioned to hide some of David's attributes during visiting hours...

Truly inspiring and educational, in the most fun way ever. I urge you to attend these tours when you have the opportunity, you won't regret it! Obviously, there are about 50 volunteer guides there, so it is likely your experience will be different to mine, but all I can say is this: I will no longer wonder around this museum aimlessly, and I shall try and join tours anywhere possible. When you have limited time and most importantly limited knowledge of what it is you're looking at, it's the best way to enjoy it and come out a different person, one a little more knowledgeable.

7 comments:

Pati from London said...

Hello Petit Filoux, what a nice post. I have to admit that the V&A is one of my favourite museums in London. It's got an amazing collection and the talks around the museum are superb. Throughout the years I have enjoyed many: talks about Japanese kimonos, Buddha statues or tapestries for example. They also have a great room on the fourth floor that very few people use where you can handle amazing drawings by the most famous artists and its library is superb. As a student of History of art I know the museums in London well. The talks in the Wallace Collection, National Gallery among others are also fantastic and they all organise great activities for kids. Another good thing about the V&A is the evening talks. For these you usually pay a little bit of money but give you the chance to listen to famous writers, designers, photographers etc and the events make for a lovely night out. It's great to be able to live in a city that offers so much. The fact that these museums are free and contain some of the best collections in the world is a priviledge and we should all pop round every now and them to enjoy them. Let's promote them!! x Pati

The Girl said...

Yes I love a bit of guide tour action, people never want to do them though! But otherwise you don't really know what it is you're looking at and seeing, you can't appreciate it without a bit of background!

Never been to the V&A - will put it on the list!

Angel Jem said...

I love the fact that the Victorians placed such an emphasis on education of the masses, and that education in the arts and history was so important to them. I wonder when that lost its impact? Why are people scared today to be educated and to seek out education? Why the culture of Hello and OK has a greater impact than Great British and European culture? I love museums and a good guided tour is worth a lot. Glad you had a good time.

Lucy said...

Ah, I love the V&A especially tea and scones in the amazing cafe! :)

Jill said...

I love the V&A and I'm a big fan of guided tours, which are much more fun than just reading the information boards at the sides of the exhibits.

Diane said...

I too love the V&A and a visit is way overdue. xxxx

Sue said...

The V&A is fabulous. It's years since I was there. I once spent the best part of a week in there drawing the textiles when I was an art student.