Museum Crowds Top Exhibits

FRIDAY, JANUARY 17, 2014

071The best part of visiting the Victoria & Albert Museum is the crowds. To know that museums can be that popular is a great relief. At home one can be nearly alone at a permanent installation, and even a special one. Today the foyer at the V&A is looking celebratory with a cascade of colored lights obscuring the old clock.

I didn’t want to waste time standing in line for the cloak room or for tickets to “Pearls” or “Chinese Masterpieces.” I just folded my raincoat over my arm and carried it for the three hours, moving in a circle and back again on the main floor, enjoying the historical sculptures, some created for piety (altars) and some for vanity (gardens).
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I went into my favorite gallery, showing costumes (“From Catwalk to Club” currently), and took photos of the most startling ones, like the gas mask case from WW II fashioned like a handbag. And about the same time women at leisure were wearing wool, one-piec bathing suits. I remember them (barely). 013
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056The Japanese room was full of delights old and new (like this baby riding a motorcycle).
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I looked at Islamic design, just to top off my experience of the past two days. I have been editing a friend’s manuscript telling of her long campaign to get her children back from her husband, a Saudi engineer who abducted them after she left their home to return to America. In his mind, she had abducted them first. It was a spine-tingling escape from a cruel man, and then a cruel society that was and still is embedded in the ancient fabric of an emerging world power. What makes her story unusual is that she credits Saudi diplomacy with arranging for her success. She only partly “got them back,” but she was allowed to stay and work (in what was considered a man’s job) in Riyadh.

 078The last time I visited the Islamic exhibit I was taking photos for a friend planning a group tour to Turkey. She had to put together a slide show as an orientation to the strange world they would enter for a period of two weeks, learning the techniques of ceramics. This time I paid more attention to textiles, especially the burka costumes and the immense “Carpet with Floral Lattice.” Just before we left home we purchased two small Iranian rugs, much more “rustic’ in design than this. The friend who sold them to us (at bargain prices) explained how the nomadic weavers would fasten the pieces to the ground so they could pull up stakes, taking their project with them.

 At six o’clock I was ready to leave for the restaurant. I could see the crowd had swelled; people of all ages in varied dress were waiting for an event to begin to celebrate the anniversary of the plaster cast of Trajan’s 98-foot marble column, which celebrated a Roman victory over the Dacians in what is now Eastern Europe, in the region of the Carpathian Mountains, in A.D. 103. I had to look that up. Tonight it was all about music and a light show.

 One of our companions at dinner asked how young people from other countries manage to wind up in London. She was referring to the charming French waitress in Bumpkins, a restaurant in South Kensington with an “all-British” menu. (I had fish pie.) I conjectured that jobs were not so plentiful in France and elsewhere, and London is hugely popular with young people, and in fact has been cited this week as the most popular city in the world. Nomads abound here.

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