V&A’s new permanent gallery for furniture

by eleonora usseglio prinsi
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The V&A opened in December 2012 its new Dr Susan Weber Gallery providing a permanent home for the Museum’s internationally renowned furniture collection. The Museum has always displayed furniture in other galleries, but this is the first ever V&A gallery dedicated to furniture. It is also the only gallery worldwide to tell the story of furniture production through the way each piece was made and the people who made it.

Designed by NORD Architecture, the gallery displays more than 200 outstanding pieces of British and European furniture, from the Middle Ages to the present day, as well as examples of American and Asian furniture and examines in detail the range of materials and techniques employed for each piece.

The gallery tells the story of how furniture was made and decorated over 600 years, exploring a thematic range of materials and techniques ranging from joinery, moulding, upholstery and digital manufacture, to carving, marquetry, gilding and lacquer. It
focuses on techniques of construction and decoration and includes numerous examples of how conservation and analysis have revealed previously unknown information about the way in which the objects were made.

Highlights includes a dining chair designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1949), a gilded cassone made for the Duke of Urbino (about 1509) and a scagliola decorated table formerly at Warwick Castle (1675). A central chronological display highlights 25 key pieces from the collection ranging from a storage unit by Charles and Ray Eames (1949-50), a Gothic revival cradle designed by Richard Norman Shaw (1861) to one of the newest pieces in the collection, the ‘Branca’ chair, designed by Industrial Facility (2011) and Wooden Heap, a drawer unit designed by Boris Dennler.

The gallery incorporates innovative and interactive technologies such as digital labels with a touch-screen interface to provide additional content and context for each object, a first for the V&A. Films in the gallery explores key techniques including joinery, boulle marquetry and digital manufacturing. 14 specially-commissioned audio recordings record the responses of contemporary experts, including David Adjaye and Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, to the work of historic designers.

Credits: Installation Views Dr.Susan Weber Gallery copyright V&A

V&A South Kensington
Cromwell Road
London SW7 2RL