V&A’s European galleries to get £12.5m overhaul
False ceilings will be removed to expose original 1890s architecture and let in natural light
By Martin Bailey. Web only
Published online: 16 January 2014
The Victoria and Albert Museum’s Europe 1600-1800 galleries are due to reopen in December, following a £12.5m refurbishment. The L-shaped configuration of rooms was last redisplayed in the 1970s. False ceilings from that time have been removed, to reveal the original 1890s architecture and allow in natural light.
The rehang, designed by the London-based ZMMA architects, will present 1,100 objects, slightly more than before. Among the items going on show are a restored four-metre-long Meissen table fountain made in Dresden in 1745-47 and recently cleaned tapestries. Key acquisitions include a panoramic landscape painting of the Château de Juvisy by Pierre-Denis Martin, around 1700. Fundraising for the £1.3m picture is nearly complete.
Since 2004, the seven lower-floor galleries (running from the main entrance to the Exhibition Road side of the museum) have been fully open for a total of just over two years. Following a theft elsewhere in the building, the rooms were shut in 2004-07 because of security concerns and they were closed again in 2009, while funds were raised for the refurbishment. The project eventually received a £4.75m award from the Heritage Lottery Fund and private donations.
Meanwhile, building work began this month on the museum’s new underground temporary exhibition space and Exhibition Road entrance, which is due to open in early 2017. Over £36m has been raised towards the £49.5m construction cost. It was also announced that the museum had a record 3.3m visitors last year.
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