Pink Floyd ‘Their Mortal Remains’: V&A

Pink Floyd have sold over 250 million records worldwide since they were founded in 1965, so it only makes sense for such an epic band be recognised with an exhibition on a truly epic scale. The V&A have done just that with the current ‘Their Mortal Remains’ retrospective of the band, presenting an enormous archive of material, huge displays and large-scale installations, all accompanied by a legendary soundtrack! The exhibition takes you on a chronological journey from sixties London through to the present day via promotional posters and tickets, press images, backstage photographs, archived interviews and footage, band members’ original instruments and other ephemera. That said, there is a distinct focus on the 1970’s – arguably the bands’ creative apex – witnessing the release of ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’, ‘Wish You Were Here’, ‘Animals’ and ‘The Wall’ all in a six year period between 1973 and 1979. This period of ingenuity is recognised in the exhibition with full-scale reconstructions of Battersea Power Station accompanied by a floating pig and other inflatables commissioned by the band to accompany their tours of this era, as well as a huge reconstruction of ‘the wall’. The show then moves on to explore more contemporary incarnations; the 1980’s ‘Final Cut, 1990’s ‘Division Bell’ and final 2012 album ‘Endless River’ – and closes with a gig projected on all four walls of one enormous gallery space. As well as celebrating the music, it highlights the influence of other artistic mediums; from David Hockney and illustrator Peter Blake to animators Gerald Scarfe and Ian Eames. Moreover it emphasises the bands’ ambition to constantly challenge and create more imaginative live shows, as well as their collaboration with graphic designers Hipgnosis to create some of the most iconic album covers of all time. You’ll need to dedicate a good few hours to take the whole exhibition in, but I’d suggest making the time this summer before it closes in October.

For more information visit their website

The London Design Festival: Somerset House

Design districts (Clerkenwell, Shoreditch, Chelsea, Brompton, Islington and Bankside), temporary installations, large-scale fairs, and hundreds of talks and events popped up across London last week to celebrate the city’s annual Design Festival. After lack lustre RIBA installations in flagship store windows along Regent Street and a frustrating visit to the V&A involving disorganisation, poor signage, a map with the wrong orientation, and long queues when you finally did locate a related room – Somerset House provided a welcome change and was extremely satisfying. It was easy to navigate, the central courtyard contained clear signage with arrows directing visitors to different areas, and actively encouraged public engagement and interaction. Although not strictly part of the festival, Marc Quinn’s ‘Frozen Waves, Broken Sublimes’ sculptures currently inhabiting the courtyard are certainly worth a mention, comprising five monumental stainless steel pieces including a 7.5 metre long wave and four conch shells. Moving into the Terrace Rooms six ‘#Powered by Tweets’ competition winners were on display, each challenged to create something beautiful or solve a problem using Twitter. Given my cynicism towards social media I was surprised by how thoughtful the entries were; one design equipped pigeons with pollution monitors enabling real-time tweets to report on air quality in various global cities, another harnessed Twitter to create visual mindscapes to help relax patients receiving chemotherapy, whilst another monitored language to create a real-time visualisation of the most popular words being used on Twitter. On the subject of communication technology, Punkt in the West Wing also touted their MP01 mobile which refreshingly contains no status updates, notifications or multiple alerts but instead “focusses on the things that matter, like communicating”! Finally, the sunken Embankment Galleries showcased ‘My Grandfather’s Tree’ where Max Lamb beautifully explained his story of felling an ash on his family farm which was cut into 130 sections, each transformed into a stool, table or chair, and all displayed homogenously.

For more information on the festival visit their website


The Alice Look: V&A Museum of Childhood

On my way home from a frustrating meeting with my estate agent and surveyor on Saturday afternoon, I passed the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green and decided that a step back into my childhood and the alluring world created by Lewis Caroll would be the best antidote for my adulthood frustrations. I have been curiouser and curiouser to visit ‘The Alice Look’ exhibition since it opened on 2nd May and it was just the escapism I needed… split into 4 categories comprising Alice in Wonderland’s beginnings, follower of fashion, inspiration and global Alice, it explores Alice’s relationship with fashion since her inception 150 years ago. As a lifelong fan of these books, I was surprised to learn it was Lewis Caroll himself who created the first images of Alice in a handwritten manuscript that he produced for the real ‘Alice’ (Alice Lidell – the daughter of a family friend) minus the pinafore, striped stockings and hairband we now automatically associate with the character. In the first published version she continued to be dressed in a yellow outfit worn by many middle-class Victorian children, and it was not until Through the Looking Glass was published 6 years later that she gained her hairband and stockings. And she wasn’t dressed in blue – the colour most widely associated with her – until the Disney animation in 1951! The exhibition goes on to look at the various reprints and special editions over the last century and a half, her influence on designers, stylists and photographers, as well as her various incarnations across the globe including Swahili Alice in a local kanga dress, and a Japanese Lolita-style Alice. My only criticism is that it could and indeed should have been larger, calling five or six display cases an exhibition is a little misleading and I was left craving more.

For more information visit their website


Alexander McQueen’s Savage Beauty: V&A

The V&A’s current blockbuster exhibition ‘Savage Beauty’ closes with Alexander Mc Queen’s own words;  I’m going to take you on journeys you’ve never dreamed were possible” which summarises what this exhibition has managed to achieve nicely. It is a lesson in how to take the museum visitor on a journey (when you’ve got a budget!) and immerse them in a world from Savage Beauty through to every form of Romantic (Gothic, Primitive, Nationalistic, Exotic and Natural), with a ‘Cabinet of fashion Curiosities’ and the designers vivid interpretation of Plato’s Atlantis thrown in for good measure. Each room not only showcases different collections but captures an entire mood; red, black, leather and lace from collections with evocative titles like ‘Nihilism’ and ‘Highland Rape’ immerse the visitor in Savage Beauty, a corridor of skulls and bones leads the visitor into a tribal space inhabited by mannequins with perspex tusks dressed in horse-hair and pony-skin with real crocodile heads used as shoulder pads, and expertly showcases a collection titled ‘It’s a Jungle Out There’, whilst futuristic silver horned mannequins on a white tile floor adorned with digitally created graphic prints and blaring techno music pay homage to Mc Queens last fully realised collection ‘Plato’s Atlantis’. The almost overwhelming double-height ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ focusses on the designers one-off pieces and with so many elaborate creations displayed side-by-side it is difficult for the visitor to know where to begin let alone maintain attention on one item without your eyes wondering. Clever use of Mc Queens own words to describe his collections and mirrors allowing visitors to view his expert tailoring from every angle make it a poignant tribute of one the UK’S most visionary and rebellious talents – and I’d highly recommend  a visit!

For more information visit their website