London is famed for its many leading museums and galleries, which together attract tens of millions of visitors each year and showcase an array of groundbreaking works of international art and design.
The Victoria & Albert Museum is a staple British institution located in the capital’s museum quarter, or ‘Albertopolis’ (named after Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria). As well as housing some of the finest examples of decorative art and design from around the world, the V&A is also well known for its revolutionary temporary exhibitions. In recent years the critically acclaimed show David Bowie is has become the most visited show in the museum’s history, welcoming over 1.5 million visitors throughout its worldwide tour.
An unrivalled South Asian collection
One of the V&A’s areas of expertise is the art of South Asia. An unparalleled assemblage of almost 60,000 artefacts from countries such as India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Nepal makes up an important part of the museum’s central collection. Take a look at the video above for an introduction to the V&A’s collection of fascinating objects from India.
One of the collection’s highlights is Tipu’s Tiger, a wooden sculpture of a tiger mauling a member of British East India Company’s army. Created for Tipu Sultan, the ruler of the city of Mysore in India from 1782 to 1799, Tipu’s Tiger has an unexpected secondary function. Find out what it is, demonstrated by a member of the V&A’s conservation team, in the video below.
Another gem of the V&A’s South Asia collection is the wine cup of Shah Jahan, an intricately detailed jade cup made for the 17th-century Mughal emperor of the same name. The object (pictured below) takes the form of a lotus head at its base, with handles in the shape of ram heads. This eclectic range of motifs and styles has been attributed by the museum to 'the variety of cultural and artistic influences that were welcome at the Mughal court.'
Exhibiting Indian culture
The V&A’s interest in India stretches far beyond its permanent collection, and in 2015 the museum held its India Festival. Amongst a series of events and digital projects this programme included The Fabric of India exhibition, which explored Indian craft and design from the 3rd century to the present day. Scroll down to watch an introductory video to the India Festival, along with footage of Professor Sunil Khilnani’s opening speech for The Fabric of India.
2017 will see the opening of the Lockwood Kipling: Arts and Crafts in the Punjab and London exhibition. Held in the museum's Porter Gallery, the show will explore the life and work of John Lockwood Kipling, an artist and educator who spent most of his career working and teaching in British India during the 19th century. His talents were multifarious, and below you can find a drawing entitled A Wood Carver, which highlights his skills as a keen observer of practical life in India.
With 2017 promising another fascinating insight into India's cultural past, the V&A continues to be a vital showcase of international art and design.