It was a busy week for visiting exhibitions last week but many of you will know by now that I’m always happy to have a wander around in a gallery or museum (although they do occasionally feature model railways or steam trains which is the hubster’s field of interest not mine. He’s been to the Fashion Museum in Bath and he’s very handy at carrying large, newly acquired bags of fabric so we’re a good match!)
After spending a few hours guiding my bestie Catherine around the V&A whilst she was on a whistlestop visit I showed her a few of the highlights I always stop to gaze at including….
and then there’s….
Another personal favourite which is in the same room are the casts of the doors of the Baptistry in Florence, also known as the Gates of Paradise-created by Lorenzo Ghiberti between 1424 and 1452….but that’s another story and nothing to do with our visit.
Caz had a coach to catch from Victoria so after I’d waved her off I went back in to see the Fabric of India exhibition. [It was the first time I’d been back into the main exhibition space since the McQueen ended so it felt slightly odd to see it looking so different]
For starters it wasn’t in the least bit crowded by comparison so it was possible to get a good view of all the exhibits. The first part is devoted to explanations of various techniques used to produce the fabrics, the colours, the decoration used in Indian fabrics including silk and cotton, indigo dyeing (it’s very name derives from the name India-I didn’t know that!)
The short films that accompanied this early part of the exhibition put great emphasis on the quality and expertise that each particular artisan is capable of-it doesn’t examine or go into the ethics of wages or work conditions for example-the show, I think, is to demonstrate the beauty of what is produced and not to take a moral stance. There are very little politics in evidence until much later in the show when MK Gandhi’s stance on spinning and producing homespun cloth in the years before independence and partition is mentioned.
Before this however there are many examples of fabrics synonymous with India including chintz, embroidered fine muslin, wall-hangings and tent interiors, many in bright colours and frequently richly decorated.
Moving into a more modern era you can see a broad selection of garments of all types including saris and salwar kameez, as well as ‘Nehru’ jackets and wedding attire.
There are examples of modern Indian fashion designers including two outfits by Manish Arora.
There is lots to see and admire in this exhibition and whilst it isn’t as dynamic as the McQueen there are lots of beautiful things to look at and I thought the ‘educational’ bits at the beginning were well-done. I’d learnt about much of it as a student but I still found out new things and by presenting short videos meant you can see and admire the artisans at their craft. It’s worth mentioning that the V&A has an extensive collection of other Indian artefacts elsewhere in the museum which are on permanent display.
I’ve always loved the V&A since I was a young student and would spend hours in the Costume Court (as it was known then) sketching the historic costume. No outing is complete without a quick visit in there too.
This show is on until January 10th. Let me know what you think if you go.