Victoria and Albert Museum
Over 2,000 Years of Human Creativity
The Victoria and Albert Museum in London is Britain’s leading museum of art & design. Boasting a collection of some 1¼ million objects from ancient ceramics to modern fashion, the museum is just too big to handle, even with only 63,660 items on display. You therefore might want to start with the Twenty Treasures map that presents twenty highlights from the collection, which include the Raphael cartoons, Tipu’s tiger, the Ardabil carpet, Giambologna’s Samson Slaying a Philistine, Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks, the Devonshire hunting tapestries, and The Three Graces by Antonio Canova. Not included on the map are treasures such as Bernini’s Neptune & Triton and the many striking artefacts exemplifying the Arts & Crafts movement led by William Morris, simply because the V&A holds too many highlights to highlight them all.
Last year, when we visited the V&A, the Twenty Treasures map did not yet exist, or it was not available at the time, but an attendant invented one for us on the spot. He also included a few atypical highlights such as an incredibly realistic ceramic model of a basket of nuts & seeds, and a drawing of a map of the Hundred-Acre Wood for A.A. Milne’s book Winnie-the-Pooh — our youngest son couldn’t get more excited than he was when seeing all the original illustrations featuring his favourite bear. It’s always great to see a museum’s most popular pieces, but I think it’s even more gratifying to discover new personal favourites. This happened to me with Olga & Alexander Florensky’s Flags of Main Enemy Troops in last year’s exhibition about post-Soviet printmaking, and today, whenever I see Alexander’s work, I recognize it instantly. Finally, every decent museum has a decent library, but the National Art Library, with around one million books, is one of the better ones I’ve seen, and its historic reading rooms are definitely worth a visit. Admission to both the museum and the library is free.vam.ac.uk