The V&A has had a terrific year with a London gate of over 4.2m visitors and the successful launch of their first outpost in Dundee. The museums are the world’s leading galleries of art, design and performance with collections unrivalled in their scope and diversity. The institution was established to make works of art available to all and to inspire British designers and manufacturers. Today, the V&A’s collections span over 5,000 years of human ingenuity in virtually every medium and from all over the world, continue to intrigue, inspire and inform.
V&A’s Mission is to be recognised as the world’s leading museum of art, design and performance
The V&A was part of the government’s Department of Education and Science and operated under the auspices of an Advisory Council until 1 April 1984, when it acquired Trustee status with the passing of the National Heritage Act 1983.
V&A’s Mission is to be recognised as the world’s leading museum of art, design and performance, and to enrich people’s lives by promoting research, knowledge and enjoyment of the designed world to the broadest possible audience.
The V&A Strategic Objectives are focused on a significant expansion of our physical and digital reach, using the lens of design to make our collections increasingly accessible and relevant.
The V&A had another remarkably popular year attracting over four million visitors, with a total of 4,293,188 people visiting the museums in South Kensington and Bethnal Green.
A series of blockbuster exhibitions alongside two major FuturePlan projects – the Photography Centre and The Ruddock Family Cast Court – drew large audiences to the V&A. Highlights this year included the opening of Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams, which saw tickets for the entire run selling out three weeks after opening, and an extension to the run selling out three days after going on sale. Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up, set off a “Frida mania” across the UK, and the V&A’s Digital Architecture & Design department presented its first major exhibition, The Future Starts Here, closely followed by Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt, the first-ever show to celebrate videogames as one of the most critical design mediums today.
In October 2018, the Duchess of Cambridge opened the V&A’s new Photography Centre in her first act as royal patron. Since opening, the centre has attracted 5,000 visitors a day.
V&A Dundee opened to massive acclaim on 15 September 2018, and due to overwhelming response, exceeded its first-year audience target of 500,000 just six months later. V&A Dundee was developed in partnership with and is operated by Design Dundee Limited.
In October 2018, radical plans were unveiled to transform the V&A Museum of Childhood, redefining east London’s much-loved first museum around learning through play – with a mandate from local children to create the world’s most ‘joyful’ museum.
The architectural vision for the V&A East project was announced in November 2018; two new sites in London’s Olympic Park in Stratford, opening in 2023. A new V&A museum at Stratford Waterfront will host an unprece- dented partnership with the Smithsonian Institution. A unique Collection and Research Centre will open at Here East. They will join leading art institutions including Sadler’s Wells, the BBC, UCL and London College of Fashion on East Bank, a new cultural and education district.
Building on a successful first year, the V&A expanded its flagship education programme DesignLab Nation into five cities.
Underscoring the museum’s commitment to sustainability, in November 2018 we hosted UK Parliament’s largest-ever Select Committee hearing on improving sustainability in the fashion industry, with leading figures including Claire Bergkamp, Sustainability & Innovation Director, Stella McCartney Ltd, Graeme Raeburn, Designer and activist Livia Firth in attendance.
The museum also continued its commitment to developing public engagement. An open call out for lost designs by British fashion icon Mary Quant resulted in over 1,000 responses, leading to 35 acquisitions for the V&A’s collection, while Dan Vo, the V&A’s LGBTQ Tour Coordinator, was given the Radical Changemaker Award by the Museums Association.
Other highlights of the year include:
■ Four exhibitions toured to 12 different UK venues and were seen by almost 190,000 people
■ The Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Grant Fund was suspended between April and September 2018 while the delegated agreement with Arts Council England was finalised. Since reopening in September 2018, 64 grants totalling £528k have been awarded
■ The David Bowie Is touring exhibition broke the 2 million visitor mark on its final destination in New York
■ The V&A highlighted the craftsmanship and beauty of the Maqdala treasures within the context of the col-
lection’s complicated history with the display Maqdala 1868, which opened on 5 April 2019
■ The Museum of Childhood’s Chinese New Year event saw its busiest day in the past 12 years with 5,195 visitors
V&A South Kensington exhibitions 2018-19 Exhibition attendance during the financial year was as follows:
The experience the V&A delivers for our visitors is uniquely tied to all of the museum’s activities, collections and public programme. Visitors to the V&A are invited to explore the world-class collections, galleries and exhibitions on display, and encounter a wide range of stories spanning 5,000 years of human ingenuity across numerous genres.
The V&A has continued to improve its visitor experience in 2018-19, staging a critically-acclaimed programme of immersive exhibitions, including the phenomenally popular Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up and Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams.
High-profile and well-attended events continue to build on the V&A’s reputation for innovative programmings, such as our Friday Late programme and Fashion in Motion series, a wide range of displays, and the display of new acquisitions to our collections.
The V&A continually strives to inspire creativity in all our audiences, from under-fives to those in schools, colleges and universities, community groups, adult learners and museum professionals, achieved through on- and off-site events and outreach.
There were 327,143 instances of engagement with V&A South Kensington Learning department programmes during the past year against a target of 289,850. Working across all audiences, the V&A continued to adapt and develop to meet audience needs. This resulted in a varied public programme spanning art, design, technology and performance, that aimed to spark curiosity and imagination and provide new skills, knowledge and engaging social experiences.
The museum had unusually high engagement, well above trend, in certain areas in 2017-18, due to the opening of the Exhibition Road quarter. Compared to this, there was an expected drop off in engagement from certain groups in 2018-19. Visits by adults from lower socio-economic groups decreased both as a share of overall visits (from 10% to 6%), and in absolute terms (from 228,324 to 144,037). However, 2017-18 was a peak year, follow- ing an increase in free programming in 2017-18 for the opening of the V&A Exhibition Road Quarter. Visits from lower socio-economic groups were also less likely to include a paid-for exhibition – 25%, compared to 51% of visits by higher socio-economic groups. Overall, more than a third of visits to the museum included a paid-for exhibition.
Last year also saw a 37% decrease in the number of adults aged 18+ participating in on-site activities at the V&A. There are two main reasons for this: firstly, in 2017-18, our programmes received additional funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for the opening of the V&A Exhibition Road Quarter, which led to an overall increase in visitor figures to the museum. Secondly, in 2017-18, the Learning Department ran a digital installation as part of the London Design Festival. This installation was a one-off instance that significantly boosted figures for “digital learning” during the year, something not expected to be replicated the following year.
Realising and sustaining FuturePlan Cast Courts The V&A’s iconic Cast Courts reopened in December. First opened in 1873, they are the only galleries in the museum that display the same collection of objects as when they initially opened. After extensive conservation, the treasures of the Ruddock Family Cast Court have all been fully restored, including the full- scale replica of Trajan’s Column and the 12th-century Pórtico de la Gloria.
Many other historic casts have been restored, from medieval Spanish reliefs to Celtic crosses and major French and German Renaissance sculptures. Highlights include the 16th-century tomb by Peter Vischer from Nuremberg, figures and reliefs by the South-German sculptor Tilman Riemenschneider and works by the French artist Jean Goujon.
Conservation work carried out in the Cast Courts also included extensive research into the original decorative scheme of the galleries, reinstating the rooms’ original colours, architectural details and finishes. In the Chitra Nirmal Sethia Gallery, the 19th-century ceramic tiled floor, executed by the inmates of Woking Female Prison, has also been restored, while repairs to the glazed roof, ceiling and walls have returned the court to its original splendour. The exhibits have been reconfigured with new interpretation to provide a broader understanding of the history of the objects and reveal the processes behind the creation of the casts and how these processes have evolved into the 3D printing that is now a critical part of reproducing and preserving both lost and endangered cultural heritage – a process that is at the heart of the ReACH initiative launched by the V&A in 2017.
The V&A Photography Centre
The V&A doubled the space dedicated to photography at the museum when it opened phase one of the V&A Photography Centre on 12 October 2018. Designed by David Kohn Architects, the new centre will better display the V&A’s collection of over 800,000 photographs. It consists of four galleries, including the Bern and Ronny Schwartz Gallery and the Modern Media Gallery, and shows the history of photography with the dominant display Collecting Photography: From Daguerreotype to Digital. The Modern Media Gallery shows a frequently changing selection of new acquisitions, a ‘Light Wall’ for displaying screen-based photography, and a ‘Dark Tent’ projection area.
To mark the opening, the V&A commissioned two internationally renowned artists to produce new works. Thomas Ruff created a monumental series inspired by Linnaeus Tripe’s 1850s paper negatives of India and Burma, held in the V&A’s collection. American artist Penelope Umbrico created 171 Clouds from the V&A Online Collection, 1630 – 1885, in which she found details of clouds observed in paintings in the V&A collection and transformed them into a digital projection for the first work to feature on the Light Wall.
Engendering learning and participation Busiest day at V&A Museum of Childhood for 12 years This year’s V&A Museum of Childhood Chinese New Year event saw its busiest day since reopening in 2007, with 5,195 visitors to the museum on 9 February 2019. A highlight of this popular family day was the “Lion” dance performance, which took place on the Marble Floor, the main space in the building. This also contributed to the busiest week of the year so far outside of school holidays, with 13,012 visitors over the week.
For their introduction to architectural design and making. Invited to rethink how visitors might interact with the museum, the students interrogated the building – inside, outside and the spaces in between – to design new, inventive areas for playing and learning. Physically exploring the architecture of the museum, they developed spatial awareness and understanding of its potential, using their bodies and senses as tools. Participants turned their studies into a series of full-scale designs, which were put on display in an exhibition in the Front Room Gallery.
Victoria & Albert Museum Annual Report and Accounts 2018-2019 Creating equality and diversity.
LGBTQ working group and inclusive tours. The V&A has a strong track record in supporting the LGBTQ community. The LGBTQ Working Group is comprised of museum staff with interest in using the V&A’s collections to explore issues of gender, sexuality and identity. They look to unearth previously hidden or unknown LGBTQ histories in the collec- tions. The V&A’s LGBTQ Tour Coordinator, Dan Vo, who has been a V&A Ambassador since 2013, was named Radical Changemaker 2018 by the Museums Association.
The museum launched a Female Voices Tour to coincide with International Woman’s Month. Guides conducted special tours to explore the V&A’s collection to uncover the contributions of women to art and design as patrons, muses, creators, business partners and more.
This year will see the launch of the V&A’s most ambitious schools programme to date. V&A Innovate, which launches in 2019, will champion Design and Technology as an essential subject and exciting career pathway. Available to every school in England, V&A Innovate introduces critical stage 3 (KS3) students to some of the core design principles used across the industry, supporting teachers and preparing students for the new design and technology GCSE. Alongside this, Learning and National Programmes will continue to engage with audiences across all ages and stages, from families, young people, schools, colleges, higher education and adult learning, including professional development.
The Museum of Childhood is undergoing a radical transformation of its Grade II-listed Bethnal Green building. Scheduled to be reopened in time for the museum’s 150th anniversary in 2022, the redevelopment was developed in collaboration with local children through a series of co-design workshops. Gina Koutsika will join as Creative and Skills Director to help steer this project to completion.
In South Kensington, the V&A is undertaking a landmark project to enhance our visitors’ understanding and enjoyment of the Raphael Cartoons and the gallery in which they hang, to coincide with the 500th anniversary of Raphael’s death in 2020.
Top Photo: P C Robinson © Artlyst 2019