The Victoria and Albert Museum is the hugest depository of British decorative arts. It was opened in 1852. In 1851 the Great Exhibition took place not far from this building in South Kensington, near Hyde Park and the Royal Albert Hall, displaying objects of culture and industry from all over the continental Europe, the British colonies and the United States of America. That was the Golden Age of the British Empire, and the country was particularly interested in establishing its dominance not only politically but also in culture. The initiative to found the museum belonged to Prince Albert, the consort of Queen Victoria.
The museum has stayed true to the tradition, and its permanent exhibition displays the best examples of art and design of the period covering the time from the 1500s to the late Victorian age: portrait miniatures of Queen Elizabeth I, Victorian wallpaper and furniture, XIX century photographs etc. Most of these artefacts have been made in Great Britain; still, reflecting the fact that art and design in the British Isles were strongly influenced by the developing global market, Indian textiles, Chinese porcelain, Italian glass and other objects manufactured abroad are also among the exhibits.
An integral part of the V&A Museum is the collection of fine arts, dominated by examples of the XIX century art: the legacy of the famous landscaper John Constable, for instance, is represented by 400 exhibits bequeathed by the painter's daughter in 1880. Separate rooms are devoted to the history of fashion; among the exhibits you will find the same legendary platform shoes by the British fashion designer Vivien Westwood which were the cause of Naomi Campbell's notorious stumble on the catwalk.
For enthusiasts of art history a visit to the V&A National Art Library is a must: this is the only place in the world where you can (on demand) both see and touch original drawings by Rubens and Raphael.
Alongside the permanent collection the museum also regularly hosts various topical exhibitions.
Vicoria & Albert
Keywords: London, museum, British decorative arts