Observations: New Renaissance at the V&A
Friday 30 October 2009
The V&A's new Medieval and Renaissance Galleries, which take up a whole wing of the museum, will finally open on 2 December. Featuring the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, the Becket Casket, thought to have contained his relics, and dramatic Italian sculptures by Donatello, as well as Gothic altarpieces and 13th-century French stained glass windows this is the V&A's most extravagant project since the British Galleries opened in 2001. It has cost 30m.
Spread over three levels, the 10 new galleries span 35,000 sq ft and contain over 1,800 objects from AD300 to 1600, including a 1,500-year-old pair of Egyptian red knitted socks that have never been displayed.
Architects MUMA refurbished the existing museum spaces and created a new day-lit gallery from scratch, which will house the faade of the London Bishopsgate house, from 1600, which once belonged to Sir Paul Pindar, ambassador of King James I to the Ottoman Empire. There is an entire Renaissance City, complete with courtyard, garden, sculptures and a working water feature.
It has been a monumental task. Everything had to be moved, except for three objects, including the choir screen from the Cathedral of St John at 's-Hertogenbosch. The Malaspina tomb monument, which has not been moved in over 50 years, was dismantled and moved a few yards.
"If you are training for the Olympics you can do it in our galleries because there is a lot of space to cover," says chief curator Peta Motture. "The beauty is, you can explore the art and culture in bite-sized chunks because each room has its own story."
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