Visiting London in May I made a pilgrimage to the Victoria and Albert Museum and was lucky enough to experience one of the most amazing exhibitions I have ever seen. The Cult of Beauty: the Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900, brought together works made by artists, architects and designers who were trying to create art that existed only to be beautiful.
The collection of paintings, photographs and sculptures I’d only ever expected to see in books or on their covers (The beguiling of Merlin – fondly remembered from the first edition of Possession and infinitely more fitting than Gwyneth Paltrow) was overwhelming enough, but the things were even better. Somehow clothes, objects and jewellery exert a powerful fascination, perhaps because they are less likely to survive actually being used.
Too stingy and too over-packed to buy the book of the exhibition and schlep it back, I was very excited to see it arrive in the library, but smugness at my frugality fights with the desire to own it as a reminder of a long day just gazing at ‘art for art’s sake’.
Not just a great reflection of the exhibition, which it is, this book is a work of art and a thing of beauty in its own right.
Do you have a favourite exhibition that you’ve seen recently?