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London(er) Daytripping: The Victoria and Albert Museum

I hope this is a start to a new theme that I’d like to write about- travel within London as a Londoner. I’ve lived here three years and not really traveled outside of London much until recently. Of course part of that is being a student, money, other things going on etc. but a big part of it is that I never really saw the need to leave London to do something new.

There’s the obvious starting point of the big tourist-y museums, but I think it’s surprising how many born and bred Londoners have never been to a lot of them, at least since they were children. As an adult with a greater understanding of history, I find museums a lot more interesting than I ever did as a child. It’s definitely more interesting now than as a kid, which is why somewhere like the Tate Modern being packed with children makes absolutely no sense to me. Could you try to expose kids to a more opaque subject?

Photo sourced from the V & A website.

The Victoria and Albert Museum is a prime example of a big, touristy museum often ignored by Londoners and Tourists to some extent, preferring to prioritise the big must-see’s (ie. Rosetta Stone). This means that the V & A tends to be a little quieter than some other museums, especially as you get off the ground floor.

Despite it’s lack of a Rosetta Stone or a Da Vinci or any of those other things that so many people need to tick off the list (sometimes without any understanding of what the object actually means), this museum has a lot of really cool stuff from all over the world. It has a vast collection of textiles (clothes/fashion, cushions, tapestry) very large pieces of buildings (a massive window from a cathedral somewhere), furniture, ceramics (an amazing collection of Middle Eastern and Islamic tiles and other ceramics- so intricate!), and tonnes of other objects that may not be classified as traditional art, as we know it today, but still have a great story to tell and are really, really cool.

They’ve also done a good job of curating the wide variety of different objects so that it makes sense. There’s some kind of narrative or definite path to go through as you visit the museum. I’ve popped in to different areas one at a time or wandered across the museum and you don’t feel like you’re missing things or like you have to back track to see something you missed due to a poorly planned traffic flow.

What I liked most about the V & A was that you get to see a side of history that you don’t usually. It shows more of a social history, including history of ‘women’s work’, like textiles. I mean it’s still objects that were used by a certain class of people, but it shows a much different side to the life of the elite families. It’s much more ‘real life’ to me than paintings, which like today were never very ‘useful’ objects (theories about the Arnolfini portrait aside), but rather acted as status symbols, commodities, or investments. The objects in the V&A at least purported to have a use and to be used and handled by real people- and made by real people.

Did I mention the really, really cool stuff?



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Esquire’s Singular Suit Exhibition

Currently coming to you from the City of Brotherly Love. AKA filthadelphia. (Pittsburgh is still better, but there is a good music scene and a great art museum,but really where, WHERE is Uncle Jimmy’s, Ritter’s AND HOCKEYYYYY)

Anyway, for the past few weeks I’ve been volunteering at the Somerset house where there is an exhibition by some of the world’s most well-known men’s designers and most renown contemporary artists (and a car). It’s still running for 10 more days and I’d recommend it because it’s free and it’s really rather interesting in the different ways each suit was designed to fit a single concept within the strict confines of a suit. .

Well It’s Shiny, but Can You Wear it to the Office?: Esquire’s Singular Suit Review

The suit is quintessential to men’s clothing implying power, masculinity, and hygiene, but how many variations on a three piece suit can there be? Esquire’s Singular Suit seeks to answer this question, and for the most part it answers with a resounding “one or two”, but the suit can be see-through or become a metal enclosure. It can play into ideas of masculinity, or question it. It can be a perfect example of why my boyfriend doesn’t want to work in an office or it can break into the viewer’s space or ask you to come closer and break the tradition form of not only a suit, but the human body. While there were a few dull examples that are equivalent to BBC Radio 2, most suits successfully used various fine art mediums in a design and fashion setting to re-think the ubiquitous men’s suit.

Viewing the suits is a bit of an exercise in surrealist reality. Entering from the formal entrance in the Somerset House, into a beautiful gallery space with inlaid wood floors and chandeliers you see headless mannequins staring at themselves in large mirrors, sometimes reaching out a hand-less sleeve to touch their reflection. The second room has more mannequins being kept company by a wooden female mannequin sitting on a chair, and as you look towards the third room there is bright light, unidentifiable from this room, but begging for examination.

The glowing light leads to my favorite suit. A beautiful suit pierced with large lighting sticks as though it were a still frame in a movie or as if the wearers soul as escaped the confines of the three piece suit. Other favorites include see-through suit designed with Spencer Tunick, a suit electroplated with metal by Antony Gormley and a suit made from an oil painting. These artists and designers really combined their talents and combined fashion with the traditional categories of art and I thought these were some of the most successful, but also some of the more obvious.

One suit, differentiated by being the only one designed with an object rather than artist in mind, was one based on a Ferrari. Its a beautifully designed suit and really captures all that a suit can encompass outside of a Monday morning uniform. I think of 007. Another suit, if you are tall enough, obviously I am not, lets you know with a beep when you are getting too close. It has sensors placed on it and is really interactive.

As always happens, some just don’t work. One suit was just accented with scuff marks, but is a regular boring suit regardless. One is a simple, dull suit with a guitar and a hope that rock and roll can save its soul.

In the hours I sat with the suit, I most enjoyed watching the visitor’s reactions. It’s essential to the life of any art piece and can be very telling about the work, itself. One older woman took a quick look and was visibly unimpressed by all the “ladies suits”. (The suits are cut super slim.) Some just took a quick look and went on with their tour of central London, but many stood behind the suits, looked over it, and took pictures of themselves in the mirrors in front of the suit. Their heads replacing the empty space where the mannequin was missing it’s own. Art meeting fashion, even without being worn.

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