Sunday, 19 February 2017

London III: The V&A

Then off to the V&A.  A return visit fro the both of us.  For me it was a return after years away and I was aware of the changes.  The new-look courtyard, with its rather minimalist fountain, was pretty underwhelming. It was very busy but upstairs in the British Galleries things were much calmer.  I particularly wanted to see these galleries (there are two) as the interior designer David Mlinaric, with others such as Christopher Gibbs and the architectural historian John Harris, acted as historical consultant in the representation of the galleries that occurred in the 1990s.  The galleries contain some fantastic objects, and it has to be said some pretty strange things too.  I have to confess to being a little disappointed with the overall, slightly over powering design, but the colours that Milnaric and others helped to choose were fantastic.  No white box Modernism.
Warning: on no account visit the Twentieth Century Gallery afterwards. They were a terrible disappointment both in terms of contents and display after all that colour and beauty.  Plenty of the white box Modernist gallery, and both it and the contents were drab and banal. It confirmed what I heard a critic say about Modernist design some years ago on BBC4 - something on the lines of: 'It promised so much and never failed not to deliver.'  It certainly gave the lie to the idea that 'good design'  - would somehow elevated the mass produced object and make it, like art itself, into a substitute for the spiritual, for the sublime. Echoes there of T E Hulme's 'spilt religion' and Marx's 'commodity fetishism'.
I felt the same sense of decline, if not failure at our next port of call.  We took the tube to St James's Park - looking delightful in the late winter sunshine - to the ICA on the Mall.  It was the brother's first visit.  Neither of us were that impressed.  The place looked and felt tired.  A place too, I suspect, only for the initiate.  We wandered off through the West End to an early dinner in the vibrant Dishoom Carnaby, which I've blogged about before.  Pleased to say that our visit went very well - the Black Dhal in particular was unctuously, satisfyingly savoury, and the whole experience excellent.

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