V&A Assignment

V&A WHATS ON GUIDE 2016

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The most interesting and creative assignment I had this semester was for my MA Museums and Galleries course. The assignment was to come up with the V&A What’s On Guide for 2016. During our 5 weeks class sessions at the museum we found out that it takes a lot of organisation, advance planning, extensive research, audience evaluation and editing to create these museum guides.

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(Etching of the Poynter Room by John Watkins, c. 1876-81, http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/architectural-history-of-the-v-and-a-1863-1873-fowkes-architectural-master-plan-an-interrupted-vision/)

We had to come up with a theme for our guide and I chose to focus on Architecture. I decided to connect the V&A, being one of the first arts and cultural districts, to up and coming arts and cultural districts such as the West Kowloon Cultural District in Hong Kong, Saadiyat Island Art and Cultural District in Abu Dhabi, and the Entertainment District in Shanghai.

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(West Kowloon Cultural District, Hong Kong)

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(Cultural District, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi)

The What’s On Guide I was designing was for the July-September 2016 issue. I thought the summer issue will allowing me come up with creative outdoor events and take advantage of the new extension, (Phase 2 on Exhibition Road), that the museum will have opened to the public earlier that year. The new extension will offer the public an outdoor space to relax and enjoy, a new café, access to a new gallery, and a space for performances, art and events.

It was surprisingly hard to come up with two events per event area which then had to relevant to the theme of the guide. We were asked to come up with sixteen separate events. The eight event areas were exhibitions, displays, special events, families and young people, Evening events, course and workshops, demonstrations, tours and talks. We were told to be innovative with creating our events. My friend said she was going to have a famous chef to come in and give a cooking course to visitors and have someone from the Royal family to come in as a guest speaker. I decided my guide will have Australian Architect Michael Lynch and English Architect Sir Norman Foster to come and give a talk on the emergence and impact of creative towns.

Despite the stress from having the freedom to come up with sixteen imaginative and quite realistic museum events I actually enjoyed coming up with event ideas. I confess, I actually want to go to a few of my none-existent V&A events, especially the Friday Late event. The event consists a night of music, food, beverages and spontaneous dance performances around the museum. My embarrassing confession is that this event was inspired from a scene from one of the most terrible dance movies ever to be released ‘Step Up 4 – Revolution’. In the movie the “MOB” organises a flash mob dance performance at a gallery event. In this scene the dancers emerge from the art spontaneously and begin to perform and amaze the audiences. Out of the whole movie that was the best scene, I personally recommend you to not watch the movie but to just watch the art gallery flash mob scene on youtube (Link below).  Just imagine a series of unexpected dance performances from above and within the interior of the V&A interrupting and entertaining groups of people at a V&A Friday Late.

Watch this scene: Art Gallery Flash Mob scene, Step Up 4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3VlnaowmqJg

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 It will be interesting to receive not only my teachers feedback to our creative writing assignment but also the feedback from the V&A museum staff.

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Classes at the V&A

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For the past 5 weeks we have been having our MA Museum and Galleries classes at the Sackler Centre at the Victoria & Albert Museum with various Education staff.  We had the great opportunity to meet the museum’s artist residents. The residents apply for a 6 months placement with the museum. They work on projects and utilise their access to the museums archives and collections.  One of the residents is a costume designer. As we entered her studio we were memorised by the pieces of clothing, sketches pinned all over the walls, and unfinished costumes on mannequins scattered around the room. The other resident was a ceramic artist in the studio on level 6 the ceramics floor. Surprisingly, the resident wants to attract audiences that like to listen to rock music and skateboard users to visit his art exhibitions. These are considered new and not conventional V&A audiences, but a risk that the artist and the V&A are willing to experiment with.
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These classes at the V&A have been extremely useful and has given us an insight to potential museum career paths we may want to pursue after our masters degree. We have gained an understanding of what happens behind the scenes in the museum that a normal visitor may not have knowledge of. There is something thrilling about knowing how a museum operates behind the eyes of the visitor. Many museum visitors tend not to think about what happens behind the scenes in a museum but just focuses on what the museum wants them to see. For example, the staff is constantly designing and planning new exhibitions, organising restoration plans of the building and art collections, coming up with new methods in attracting new visitors etc. It was a surprise to learn that the ‘Hollywood Costume’ exhibition was planned and over 7 years, which means most of the exhibitions opened for the public this year were planned and made official years ahead. This suggests that it takes years of planning and organisation to keep the museum functioning and constantly offer something for their audiences. I can understand why the V&A museum is one of London’s top attractions.
It has been a great experience at the V&A and opened our eyes to potential career paths in the Museum industry. Having only experience in galleries and small art organisations to have the insight to the organisation of a large art and cultural institution has been a great opportunity. 
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Victoria and Albert Museum
Cromwell Road, South Kensington, SW7 2RL

V&A

Frieze London

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MACE students and I managed to get to the Frieze Art Fair 2012, we all arrived excited and ready to take in all the art. Our tickets only allowed us to have access to the fair for two hours, from 5pm to 7pm. We had the privilege to walk amongst the 5pm VIP guests, I could not tell the difference between who was VIP and who was trying to be. After the first hour I was ready to leave. Despite the headache I had, due to the typical bright lights of the art fair, I managed to stay the whole two hours.

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We found the Gagosian Gallery from New York art booth. I was drawn to this painting (above) however, there was no caption and it was hard to tell who was representing the gallery. It was hard find any handout or books on the artist. Fellow Mace Students and I had a strange feeling when we entered Gagosian’s booth. We felt unwanted and unimportant. I got a sense of ‘we know at 5pm to 7pm there will be no real buyers, so we can relax and not make an effort’. Was there no captions for the artwork because they expected us to already know the Gallery and to recognise the artist represented without having to ask.

I was quite surprised to not see many red dots on the captions indicating artwork sold or other coloured dots indicating artwork reserved.

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Frieze was my second Art Fair experience, I had the opportunity to work as a volunteer and represented Schoeni Art Gallery, Hong Kong at the Hong Kong Art Fair 2012 in May.  I found that at both Art Fairs there was too much art to see and I found myself swimming through the lanes quickly as a result of lack of interest. I found the gallery representatives unapproachable and at times judgemental, especially when they stare at you as you walk by or took a photo. At the Hong Kong Art Fair we were told to always be alert, helpful, and engage in conversations with visitors, invite them to see all the artwork and meet the gallery owner. This friendly visitor interaction was encouraged throughout the whole day and not only when VIP’s were scheduled in. I did not find this friendly visitor and gallery staff interaction constantly throughout Frieze, but I am not saying that it wasn’t there at all.

Being an amateur and new to London’s Art World it was not easy to recognise the VIPs with the 5pm tickets. In Hong Kong the staff, Gallery staff, Sponsors, Journalist had visible photo identification cards hanging around their necks with different colours indicating who they were. It would of been interesting to see how different the atmosphere was when it was VIP only sessions.

Mace students and I had the privilege to listen to Art Market Analysis Anders Petterson, Founder and Managing Director of ArtTactic http://www.arttactic.com/, about the Art Market and prepared us for Frieze. After two hours with Petterson we found ourselves ready for the fair, he discussed the politics of Art Fairs, which includes not only the placements of the galleries art booth at the fair but also how the gallery is chosen. It’s all about reputation. For a gallery to be picked for an Art Fair the people who choose the galleries have to consider the reputation of the artists represented and what has the gallery achieved in the art world.

Personally, I find Art Fairs pretentious. It’s about galleries and artist maintaining or boosting their reputation. It’s about art sales, galleries competing each other for sales. Not only does the Artist and Galleries have pressure but the Art Fair organisers have pressure in keeping certain top galleries for the art season. For some of the visitors its about being seen at the art fair and its the time to become an art critic. Despite being considered pretentious Art Fairs are also considered as positive events within the art world. Art fairs give emerging artists and galleries the opportunity to launch their reputation into the prestigious art world. Art fairs bring different art cultures together in one space. It gives people the opportunity to network. Most importantly, they are part of the growing Creative Economy.

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