The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) is about to complete its new Ceramics Galleries, but another gallery upgrade has proved more intractable. European decorative art of 1600-1800 is likely to have been closed for a total of up to eight years before it reopens in 2014-15.
The main section of the new Ceramics Galleries opened last September and the remaining rooms, housing a display of the study collection of 26,000 pieces, designed by Opera of Amsterdam, will reopen on 10 June. The entire ceramics project will have cost £11.5m.
The next major gallery refurbishment will be for the 1600-1800 European collection, which contains the objects bequeathed by businessman John Jones in 1882. These include masterpieces such as a French inlaid ebony cupboard of 1700 and Jean François de Troy’s painting of The Alarm, 1723. Other non-Jones material was later added. The presentation follows chronologically after the recently opened Medieval and Renaissance Galleries, which run up to 1600 (The Art Newspaper, January 2010, p18).
The suite of seven basement rooms, known as the Jones Galleries, was refurbished in 1973 and 1978. It was closed from 1993 to 1994, for the installation of alarms. Following a theft elsewhere in the museum on 29 December 2004, the Jones Galleries were among those shut because their glass cases were vulnerable. After a further upgrade in security, they were reopened in February 2007, but closed once more in July 2009 (although they are currently open to visitors on the first Tuesday of the month).
A museum spokeswoman said that “refurbishment activity is taking place during the rest of the month”, and the one-day openings can only be offered in the short-run. Discussions are taking place with the Heritage Lottery Fund and other potential donors. Completion is expected in 2014 or 2015.
The V&A says that the Jones Galleries are in “urgent need of fundamental work”. Approximately 80% of the objects remain on display in their original galleries, with the remainder on show elsewhere; others are being conserved or are in stores. A touring exhibition of European art of 1600-1800 is being planned for spring 2011.