sat 08/08/2020

Vox Pop: The V&A - Musical Instruments or Fashion? | reviews, news & interviews

Vox Pop: The V&A - Musical Instruments or Fashion?

Vox Pop: The V&A - Musical Instruments or Fashion?

The great museum jettisons music to make more fashion space - what does the public think?

Sight and sound: German lute after J H Goldt and a Vivienne Westwood 1993 outfit shown at the V&A 2004 exhibition

The Victoria and Albert Museum intends on 22 February to disperse its collection of musical instruments to other venues, to allow more room for fashion and textile exhibits. Conductor Christopher Hogwood and composer Oliver Knussen are two more well-known names in the list of more than 5,100 signatories to the petition lodged at 10 Downing Street asking for the move to be prevented. theartsdesk invited big hitters on either side to debate the case - Roxy Music designer Anthony Price makes the fashion case, while conductor Laurence Cummings heads the musician's view. And we ask you: What do you think? Please take part in the debate by making your comment below.



To be perfectly honest, I love the Horniman, their collection of musical instruments is amazing, and should really be showcased more. So as sad as I would be to see the V&A's collection disbanded, if it brought more attention to the Horniman that would make me very happy.

As a southeast Londoner I must concur with Masonic Boom: anything that brings attention to the Horniman is AOK with me.

This may sound heretical coming from a music person, but I never much cared for just looking at instruments, though some can be exquisitely designed. A living showcase, like the collection of pianos at Hatchlands and the surely now defunct Museum of Mechanical Instruments at Brentford, where loving curators can demonstrate is surely more valuable. I don't know what they get up to at the Horniman; maybe that's a bit more 'live'? So might this not be a good opportunity for th V&A to find its collection a special home with a full programme of concerts and hourly demos?

To what extent is the fact that fashion=sponsorship a factor in all this? Of course, fashion should be displayed, but why not instruments too? London is not just a fashion centre of the world, it's a musical centre of the world and brings just as much income to the UK as does fashion.

The issue I would raise to the fasionistas, is that nobody is suggesting their displays should be cut or removed. As someone who researches historical playing techniques, period costumes are as vital to what I do as period instruments (you try playing a harp in a corset and tell me it doesn't change your body position!). Closing the instrument gallery to extend the fashion display is negating one aspect of history. To say that one deserves to be displayed and the other doesn't is ridiculous, and to say that fashion needs space at the expense of any other subject it not a very realistic premise to base any argument on

I'd be really sorry to see the instruments go. The musical instrument section is somewhere I always head for when I go to the V & A (which I realise isn't often enough - to be rectified asap).

Ridiculous that musical instruments should be upstaged by something as transient as fashion. I am an art school graduate, members of my family are musicians. Music has a far greater effect on more people than frocks.

The issue with the Horniman as wonderful as it is, is that they simply do not have the the space, they can only display 20% of the current collection adding more is pointless. Compton Verney offered to take the entire collection they have funding and curatorial credability they should be allowed to have the instruments on long term loan keeping most of them on display.

Liz, I take your point, but music is to be heard and not just seen (beautiful as some of those instruments are). Visibility of fashion is the V&A's brief, so I understand that's a priority. I just wish it wasn't an "either" "or" situation. Isn't there another National Trust property which could take on the V&A instruments and make sure they be struck , plucked or blown, if they're not too fragile, at regular intervals?

Latest just now from the V&A: Today would normally be the only opening day in the month for it, but they are opening for an extra six days: tomorrow Thursday, probably the weekend 13 and 14 February (to be confirmed), and definitely the Friday-Sunday weekend 19 to 21 February. Then the closure goes ahead.

I went along to the last day yesterday. Lots of angry people. I took photos and video: I'll splice the vid together and put it on YouTube. Amusingly, I overheard (and recorded by accident - I was filming a viola da gamba at the time and the microphone picked him up - ) a V&A official holding forth on why the instruments should be replaced by a fashion display. He blamed the public. It's our fault for not visiting more often. He failed to mention the dust, neglect, woodworm, lack of multimedia (each instrument should have a button you can press to see and hear it being played) and absurd opening hours. The Thatcher defence, in other words: cut the legs off a chunk of the public sector, then berate it for being unable to walk, then shut it down. I wouldn't be surprised if Cameron flogged some of the instruments off, claiming (a) the public isn't interested, (b) the private sector would care for them better and (c) it would help prevent museum admission charges from being introduced. Don't forget the Tories introduced a £5 entry charge to the V&A last time they were in power. Ho hum.

A plague upon your ignorance to the great despare of your coniving minds..

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