Review by Martin Gayford. 01 December. 2009. Bloomberg.com
Dec. 1 (Bloomberg) — Where would you go to see the range of artistic achievement in Europe from the reign of the Emperor Constantine to the age of Shakespeare? It’s a tough query, though one answer is the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.
As is clear from the magnificent new Medieval and Renaissance Galleries (opening tomorrow), the V&A possesses an astonishing range of masterpieces of every kind — metalwork, stained glass, textiles, sculpture, painting, furniture, ceramics, even large chunks of buildings. This cornucopia of objects came from just about everywhere: Spain, Italy, Northern Europe, Byzantium and as far afield as Japan.
Until now, they have been spread over the museum, which is enormous and rambling. There are galleries on the upper floor that scarcely a visitor reaches and, I imagine, a corpse might lie undiscovered among the cases of porcelain. I suspect it’s going to be less quiet in the new galleries, designed by MUMA (MacInnes Usher McKnight Architects) at a cost of 31.8 million pounds ($52.4 million). This is one of the sights of London.
There’s a brand-new zone in what was previously a courtyard between two buildings. It’s now a glass-roofed gallery in which some of the larger architectural exhibits are displayed. Among these is the late Elizabethan carved-oak facade of a house owned by an entrepreneur named Paul Pindar. It used to stand on Bishopsgate, near the present site of Liverpool Street Station.