News: V&A to reopen on 19 May with three major exhibitions, new displays, and the transformed Raphael Court

Following a year of stop-start closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the V&A is delighted to announce that it will reopen its doors to visitors on Wednesday 19 May 2021, pending final confirmation from the government.

With over 200,000 objects, six floors and seven miles of gallery space, all of the museum’s collection galleries will once again be open for the public to explore. The reopening of the V&A will also mark the unveiling of two major new exhibitions – Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser, and Epic Iran – alongside the return of Bags: Inside Out, as well as the first time that the public will be able to visit the newly refurbished Raphael Court, home to the Raphael Cartoons.

Within the first two weeks of reopening, the V&A will open the highly anticipated exhibitions Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser, opening 22 May, and Epic Iran, opening 29 May.

Exploring its origins, adaptations and reinventions over 158 years, Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser will offer an immersive and mind-bending trip down the rabbit hole, exploring the cultural impact of Alice in Wonderland across film, performance, fashion, art, music and photography.

Epic Iran will transport visitors through time to explore over 5,000 years of culture through over 300 objects, telling the story of Iranian art and design from 3000 BC to the present day, providing an insight into a culture often seen through a different lens in the media.

After a short-lived opening back in December, Bags: Inside Out will also reopen on 19 May. From Winston Churchill’s dispatch box to celebrity ‘it’ handbags, Bags: Inside Out takes visitors through the style, craft and seduction of the ultimate accessory.

The Raphael Cartoons are among the greatest treasures of the Renaissance in the UK, and are lent to the V&A from the Royal Collection by Her Majesty The Queen. The museum’s iconic Raphael Court has been reconceived to reveal the Cartoons’ extraordinary details and vibrant palette, which – together with a new interactive interpretation in the gallery – will transform the way museum visitors experience these monumental works of art.

A number of free-to-visit displays will also be available to discover. In our Painting Galleries, Renaissance Watercolours presents a series of rare gems from the museum’s collections to explore the pivotal role of this often under-appreciated art form. In our Theatre and Performance galleries, On Point: Royal Academy of Dance at 100 is ready to take visitors through a century of dance history from costumes and sets to performances and films. New display Katerina Jebb/Elizabeth Parker features a large-scale photomontage by Jebb, spotlighting a rare 19th-century sampler which narrates the hardships of its young female creator, Elizabeth Parker.

Director of the V&A, Tristram Hunt said “We are delighted to be reopening the V&A with three spectacular new exhibitions. Only at the V&A can you explore the wonders of ancient Persia, jump down the rabbit hole into Wonderland, before swinging by a fashion paradise in Bags: Inside Out and finish your day in the Renaissance serenity of the Raphael Court – and that’s even before you discover our seven miles of permanent galleries. After many months of screen-time, our free galleries are ready for the public to enjoy, explore and question once again. The past year has been one of the most challenging that the museum has ever faced but our reopening programme captures the excitement and curiosity that the museum stands for. We have an abundance of space for social distancing and thousands of objects to inspire. Come and discover your V&A.”

A number of measures are in place across the V&A to ensure that the museum is a safe, relaxing and inspiring place for visitors, staff and volunteers. Free timed tickets to visit the museum’s collection galleries are released every two months and enable visitors to freely explore and discover the wonders of the V&A’s collection within a socially distanced environment. Further details on the range of safety measures that are in place, from screens to sanitiser stations, can be found on the V&A website.

The new Design: 1900–Now gallery on the museum’s second floor, will open in June 2021, and feature over a century of works from the V&A’s world-leading collection of modern and contemporary design including Margaret Calvert and Jock Kinneir’s iconic British Road Sign and the Mae West lips sofa by Salvador Dalí. The gallery will explore the history of design and its impact on how we live, work, travel, communicate and consume as well as providing a new home for the museum’s celebrated Rapid Response Collection.

Also in June, the V&A together with the London Festival of Architecture (LFA) and Discover South Kensington are commissioning a series of architectural installations on Exhibition Road, exploring the subject of ecology. On display throughout the summer until October, in the lead up to COP26 in November 2021, we are inviting emerging architecture and design practitioners to submit a design proposal for an installation that celebrates and demonstrates how biodiversity and ecology can be embedded into the public realm, while also showcasing the role design has to play in the multifaceted challenge of climate change.

Looking further ahead, Jameel Prize: Poetry to Politics will open 18 September. Focusing on contemporary design inspired by Islamic tradition, it will showcase work by the eight finalists, Golnar Adili, Hadeyeh Badri, Kallol Datta, Farah Fayyad, Ajlan Gharem, Sofia Karim, Jana Traboulsi, and Bushra Waqas Khan. Fabergé in London: Romance to Revolution will open 20 November, the first major exhibition devoted to the international prominence of the legendary Russian goldsmith and the importance of his little-known London branch.

For those unable to visit in person, over 1.2 million objects are now available to explore at home on the V&A’s new Explore the Collections website. For the first time, Explore the Collections brings together data, stories, images and content about the museum’s vast and fascinating collection in one place. With a completely redesigned user experience, it provides a new, fluid and story-led approach, where audiences can search for specific objects or allow the site to recommend content based on their interests.

V&A Academy courses are also available online and bring together the museum’s outstanding collections with world-leading experts to present thoughtful and inspiring courses that can be taken anywhere in the world.

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