August 3, 2021

London museums increasingly focus on minorities

LETTER FROM LONDON

On Wednesday June 30, all the cultural gratin of London had met in Hackney Wick, in the north-east of the British capital. Warehouses converted into artists’ studios, coworking spaces and 3D printing workshops, craft breweries in backyard and appetizing food trucks on the sidewalks … This vast urban area with a Berlin air, between industrial wasteland and vast green spaces (l The huge Walthamstow Wetlands nature reserve is just a little further north), is a contrasting place, both trendy and creative, but with pockets of extreme poverty, where the pandemic has wreaked havoc for the past eighteen months.

It is there, very close to the Elizabeth II Olympic Park, that two new museum spaces should emerge from the ground, under the umbrella of the Victoria and Albert Museum (the V & A), the institution devoted to the decorative arts of the very chic district. of South Kensington. The V&A East will consist, from 2024, of a huge storage space open to the public, the “V&A East Storehouse”. Or 16,000 m2 of available space, intended to accommodate 250,000 objects, 350,000 books and 1,000 archives, including those of the Glastonbury Pop Music Festival and singer-songwriter PJ Harvey.

A few hundred meters away, the elegant V & A East Museum will offer more classically exhibition venues, restaurants and shops. The building was designed by the architectural studio O’Donnell + Tuomey, which was inspired for its shape from one of the 1950s dresses by Spanish designer Cristobal Balenciaga, both structured and enveloping.

“Under-represented artists”

“We want to make art accessible, we want spaces open to everyone, especially young people, deeply integrated into this part of the capital., explained Gus Casely-Hayford, director of the future V&A East. We are moving to east London, a mixed and innovative place, to create a campus dedicated to creativity, which will contribute to the post-Covid recovery in the capital. “

Of Ghanaian origin, the Briton, historian and professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, until recently directed the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington, the main museum devoted to African art in the United States. United. He explains having traveled back and forth Hackney during confinement, and already met – often virtually – 20,000 inhabitants of the district.

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