Two Visits To The V&A For The Exhibition Road Big Reveal, Plus Grayson Perry & The Pavilion At The Serpentine Gallery, Plus Pink Floyd and The V&A Reveal Festival, 26 and 30 June 2017

Exhibition Road – Aston Webb Screen and new steps from within

Monday 26 June 2017

Janie was very excited when we got tickets for Amanda Levete’s talk at the V&A, just ahead of “the big reveal” of the results of the new Exhibition Road Building Project. The talk was nicely timed for Janie’s birthday, 26 June.

We had hoped to get to see the Serpentine stuff that day as well, but we didn’t get our act together in time for that; indeed we only just allowed enough time to walk through the park from the flat to the V&A for the talk.

The talk was very interesting. Amanda Levete explained the background to and details of this extraordinarily ambitious and unusual project, to build a substantial exhibition space and piazza in what had been dead space at the Exhibition Road end of the V&A site.

Of course, the new exhibition space is underground, so cynics might argue that this V&A project was a gargantuan Kensington basement development. But we aren’t cynics in this regard – we were chomping at the bit to see the new space.

Drinks were pleasant enough and we chatted to Amanda Levete herself briefly. She cemented our view that we wanted to return Friday to see the new space properly ahead of the big reveal and events that evening.

Friday 30 June 2017

Daisy got her act together on the Friday, so we did have time to visit the Serpentine Gallery and Pavilion ahead of the V&A.

Francis Kéré’s Pavilion

We started with the pavilion, not least because we were both peckish and could picnic therein…

…except we couldn’t, as an unattended bag encouraged the staff to clear the pavilion just as we started to munch.

We had more luck with the Grayson Perry exhibition: The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever. Janie had seen it before; indeed she took these photos a few days earlier:

I suppose there was some irony in me seeing the work of one of Chelmsford’s greatest so soon after my visit to Chelmsford. But I must say I prefer the idea of Grayson Perry’s work far more than I like the work itself. Janie is keener on the work.

Then on to the V&A to see the new space “ahead of the plebs”, as Daisy put it, with no apparent irony, despite her regular vitriol about social inequality, in the borough and beyond.

Just before the arrival of Joe Public, a man puts the finishing touches on the Oculus with sticky-back plastic.
Old and new features combine.
Inside the new exhibition space

We then waited for “the big reveal” in the new Exhibition Road cafe. I thought there might be a fanfare at 17:00, or at least the multiple gates on the Aston Webb screen would be flung open, but no such thing happened. They merely started to admit people through the main Aston Webb gate whereas previously they were asking to see membership cards.

As we had some time to kill until the opening Friday evening events of the Reveal Festival were to begin, we went to see the Pink Floyd exhibition. Pink Floyd have never really been my thing, but of course I am familiar with much of the music and the iconography, so it was interesting to see it. Pretty crowded on a Friday evening, it was, especially as I suspect we weren’t the only people who had planned to take in that exhibition ahead of the live music events.

After the Pink Floyd, we wandered down to the John Madejski Garden to watch KOKOROKO setting up and sound checking for the headline gig later.

KOKOROKO sound-checking

We had planned our evening activities carefully ahead of time – I had even printed out and marked up the event schedule – click here for the unmarked, on-line version.

So we soon headed off upstairs to find the Hejira gig. This was in Room 82, a relatively small room, so we did the right thing getting to the room in good time, finding one of the last bits of wall space for a proper view.

The music is, in theory, inspired by Ethiopian music, but we couldn’t really detect much of that. Still, the lead singer is very elegant and has an extraordinary voice.

The following embedded vid is far funkier than the music they played in Room 82:

After that, we went to see the Music Television exhibit in the Tapestries room, then failed to get in to the virtual reality behind the scenes tour. I suppose, as we have had a special, private behind the scenes tour of the V&A in our time, our need for the virtual tour was not so great.

Then back to the John Madejski Garden to see get a drink and see KOKOROKO. The garden was really starting to fill up festival style, so we got ourselves a good position and enjoyed dancing to the DJ’s music while waiting for the gig.

KOKOROKO were very good – an afrobeat sound that reminded me a bit of Fela Kuti but with a more fusion/eclectic mix of sounds. I have embedded a vid at the bottom of this piece.

Everyone was movin’ to the groovin’

There was a great spirit among the crowd; we ended up dancing and high-fiving with various strangers. Whereas Janie and I had possibly been the youngest people at Amanda Levete’s talk on Monday, we were among the oldest people enjoying the festival headline act – who cares? We had a great time.

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