I can quite honestly say that the V&A late openings make for the perfect Friday night out. These wonderful affairs happen on the last Friday of every month, and are jam-packed with live performances, debates, installations, special guests, Djs, craft tables and more.
Of course it’s also a glorious opportunity to ramble through the upstairs galleries with little to no company at all, since most of the throngs are more than happy to get a drink at the cocktail bar and mingle around special installations. It’s an absolute pleasure to wander through ancient Grecian, medieval and Japanese works of art – all alone, with the distant (and somewhat comforting) sound of world beats emanating from DJ tables far below.
But when it’s time to return to the soiree, there’s plenty to enjoy; fashionable crowds, live music, craft stations and great conversation.
Late openings might seem like a modern idea, but the introduction of gas lighting to the V&A in 1858 made late openings popular. The Museum’s first director, one Mr. Henry Cole, described the benefit as, “to ascertain practically what hours are most convenient to the working classes.” He particularly emphasised the collections of applied art and science to help boost productive industry for the country.
A noble thought indeed, but Cole would find himself agog at the haute fashion and eccentric events that characterise the V&A late openings today. Past events include Camp Make; a special season of events to unpick the design process and engage with crafts and activities. Other themes have included Afropolitans; African style, photography, fashion and identity, and The Playhouse; a playful evening of live performances and sessions with actors, writers and directors of all things thespian.
A current exhibition is The Queen by Cecil Beaton exhibition. This is an exhibition which features photographic portraits of Queen Elizabeth II as princess, monarch and mother. The exhibition is timed to coincided with the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s accession to the thrown and is on from 8 February until 22 April.
For more information go to www.vam.ac.uk/page/f/friday-late/
By Lucy Heavens
Night photo courtesy of Kotomicreations