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London's V&A East unveils new creative vision

By Danielle Wightman-Stone

5 Jul 2021

Culture

Image: courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum, London; external render view of V&A East Museum at Stratford Waterfront, designed by O’Donnell + Tuomey / Ninety90, 2018

The V&A has unveiled its creative vision for its new national museum complex in East London, V&A East, alongside its first acquisitions including a gown designed by Molly Goddard.

V&A East will comprise of two sister sites currently under construction in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The V&A East Storehouse will open in 2024 and offer a new immersive visitor experience providing “unprecedented public access” to 5,000 years of creativity. While a short walk across the park, V&A East Museum, opening in 2025, will celebrate global creativity and making.

Both sites are part of East Bank, the Mayor of London’s 1.1 billion pounds Olympic legacy project, which will create a new arts, innovation and education hub in Stratford’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

The V&A said that its founding mission is to make arts accessible to all and its new east location will place a spotlight on global stories of creativity. It also adds that V&A East will be much more than just a museum or collections store, as it will be a creative campus and social space embedded within its local community.

Image: courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Internal render view of the central collection hall in V&A East Storehouse at Here East, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro


Making will be a central theme running across both sites, alongside a contemporary and engaging programme, and V&A East will celebrate the creative visionaries, pioneering radicals and extraordinary makers of the past and present. A non-linear approach to storytelling will place historic objects alongside contemporary works, linking different disciplines, geographies and time periods to prompt conversations on the latest issues shaping society today.

V&A East will also be committed to creating opportunities for young people and fostering the next generation of creatives, with a focus on championing under-represented movements and voices to present a diverse range of perspectives. It will also collaborate with upcoming and established artists and designers, supporting new work, with the V&A’s collections acting as a creative catalyst, and the Storehouse and Museum as working studio spaces to platform new ideas.

Image: courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum, London by Jamie Stoker

Gus Casely-Hayford, V&A East director, said in a statement: “V&A East will build on the V&A’s long-standing heritage in east London and founding mission to make the arts accessible to all. We are shaping a new creative campus and social space, and by working closely in partnership with our local communities, will highlight the cultural dynamism, youth and creativity of east London.

“We want to amplify the role museums play as a platform for discovery, hope and conversation in our rapidly changing world, to help foster the next generation of Alexander McQueens.”

V&A East acquires Molly Goddard dress and Jamie Hawkesworth photography series

To reflect the V&A East’s approach to collecting and storytelling, the first acquisitions highlight its focus on supporting stories about global creativity and motivations for making – whether as self-expression, creative experimentation or ways in which art, design and performance respond to broader social, cultural and environmental issues.

Image: courtesy of Molly Goddard by Ben Broomfield

The first acquisitions include Hackney-based, British fashion designer Molly Goddard’s hot pink ‘Daria’ dress from her autumn/winter 2019 collection that was worn by Beyoncé in her 2020 album Black is King. The full-length dress is made of 61 metres of tulle net fabric and was the largest dress that Goddard had ever made at the time of creation. The dress is inspired by baby doll dresses and is exaggerated in scale, celebrating the power of femininity.

This will sit alongside ten photographic prints by British fashion photographer Jamie Hawkesworth from his 2011 – 2018 series, Preston Bus Station. The series consists of portraits of passengers passing through the Grade II listed 1960s Brutalist station in Lancashire – which was threatened for demolition but later saved, with Hawkesworth’s photographic series forming part of the local campaign. The V&A is the first UK institution to acquire Hawkesworth’s work.

Image: courtesy of Jamie Hawkesworth by Ezra Petronio

Other acquisitions include a glazed ceramic frieze made up of 48 individual tiles, Auntie, Mum and Me talking about my Fabric Collection (2016) created by London-based artist Mawuena Kattah, a visceral terracotta vessel, Itari by British-Nigerian artist Ranti Bam and American artist Kehinde Wiley’s 2020 portrait of east Londoner, Melissa Thompson.

Image: courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum, London by Jamie Stoker

V&A launches youth-focused partnerships for east London

Tim Reeve, V&A deputy director and chief operating officer, added: “We believe that V&A East – a cornerstone of the Mayor of London’s vision for a cultural and education legacy in the Olympic Park – is one of the most significant new museum projects in the world today. Despite the challenges of Covid-19, construction is well underway on both V&A East sites, with the assembly of the steel frame at V&A East Museum, and the formation of the unique public spaces at V&A East Storehouse.

“Together, they will open up the national collections in ways never possible before, enabling us to reach new audiences in one of the most creative and culturally diverse parts of the UK. The catastrophic impact of Covid-19 has only made this project more urgent, as a driver for cultural tourism, economic recovery, creative opportunity and as a major new creative resource for east London and the UK.”

Image: courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum, London; external render view of V&A East Museum at Stratford Waterfront, designed by O’Donnell + Tuomey / Ninety90, 2018

The V&A also announced the V&A East Youth Collective Programme, a rolling 6-month paid opportunity for locals aged between 16 and 25, who will play a key role in shaping strategic decisions in the making of V&A East from programming to opening hours, ticket prices and more.

Interdisciplinary design collective Resolve, which runs creative workshops in the area, has been appointed as V&A East’s first Youth Workers in Residence to help shape V&A East’s future youth programming. Their work will culminate in a series of installations, designed and delivered in locations across the Olympic boroughs in collaboration with the young people.

In addition, creative agency A Vibe Called Tech, whose work explores the intersection of Black creativity, culture and innovation, has joined the project as part of a creative residency supported by Google Arts and Culture. They will collaborate with young people on a series of digital content experiments that will inform V&A East’s evolving creative programme.

Image: courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Internal render view of the central collection hall in V&A East Storehouse at Here East, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro