At last we have a serious decorative arts show: John Channon at the V&A,

The Victoria and Albert Museum may be getting back into its stride as the world's top decorative art museum if the exhibition is anything to go by.


The exhibition, opening 16 February, is an impeccably researched survey of the brass-inlaid furniture by one of England's grandest rococo cabinet-makers, John Channon, and of his contemporaries, dating from around 1730 to 1760.

The exhibition was devised together with the Leeds City Art Galleries, where Christopher Gilbert is a world famous specialist in eighteenth-century English furniture, and where the show had its first airing last autumn.

It has been very much a collaborative effort, with seven curators recruited from both museums, and with much information provided also by top London dealers such as Norman Adams, Mallett, Pelham Galleries, as well as the salerooms.

In furniture studies the link with the market has always been strong. It was the furniture historian W.R. Symonds who was the first to identify and promote this school of furniture, and Symonds was also advisor to a number of important collectors including Samuel Messer and Eric Moller. Both these were sold at auction with extraordinary success in the last two years, the latter in November 1993. The book edited and partly written by Christopher Gilbert and Tessa Murdoch, includes chapters on "The Channon family of London and Exeter"; "Channon's rivals and the London market for brass-inlaid furniture"; "The continental context: Germany" and "France"; "Furniture manufacture and workshop organisation". It reflects the sociological approach taken to art-history studies in recent years with its surveys of various forms of furniture and of workshop groups. Published by Yale U.P., it costs £30 hardback.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as ‘At last a serious decorative arts show'