Monday, August 28, 2006

Islamic art and fashion

On Saturday we went to the Victoria & Albert museum. I wanted to see the new gallery of Islamic art. It opened recently to much adulation and celebration.

Well, it was a bit of a disappointment, I must say. Don't go to the V&A just to see that - there are better and bigger collections elsewhere. Because of the hype and hoopla, I assumed that there were a lot of new items, but it was the gallery itself that had been refurbished. And it's nice and all, but it's dominated by an enormous Persian carpet - I guess the size of badminton court, that's in a giant glass, low-light box. That should be impressive, but since the light is turned on the carpet only twice an hour, it makes the gallery seem crowded out to the edges a big dull wall-to-wall carpeted cube.

mirrorBut - a new piece was commissioned by an Iranian artist - a mirror mosaic, which was absolutely awesome (and in the main entry hall rather than the gallery). That thing is absolutely fantastic.

And they had other events on as well, including a Saudi Arabian fashion show.

Hmm...a Saudi Arabian fashion show - you might think there's not a lot of mileage in that, this year's black is the new, well, black and hemlines never rise above the floor.

But rather than being a fashion show, it was ethnography on the catwalk. Young women and men were dressed in traditional Arabian garb, and walked around the central courtyard. The event was put on by a group of Saudi women who wanted to "revive and preserve" traditional textile and costume. And since they all went around bareheaded, I must presume that they are Saudi dissedents and want to show that contrary to the current Wahabi all-encompassing black robes, that there was diversity of dress in Arabia, and not all of it so severe.

Even the Vol-in-Law had to admit that the show was pretty enjoyable.


festive dress

I must presume that the models were the sons and daughters of the society women. It was mostly young women, and a few young men. Only the teenaged boy who looked like a version of Lawrence of Arabia seemed vaguely comfortable in his outfit - this poor lad, with the flowers in his hair...well, mostly he seemed like he'd rather be somewhere else. But kudos for being a good sport, young man, I thought you looked rather fetching.


No trip to the V&A is complete without a visit to the Court of Casts - two vast rooms of plaster casts of great artistic treasures. The Brits were very good at "liberating" art to display in London, but what they couldn't carry they copied. I remember in my first day in Italy, wandering around Rome in the heat and the noise and seeing Trajan's column. Was I amazed or impressed - nah, I thought, I could have stayed at home and seen it in London.

Court of casts

But I must say, that some things, impressive as they are in plaster (and this is amazing) are even better in marble. The first time I saw the David, I entered from the other side of the room, the scale and proportions are so perfect that you don't realise how enormous it is until you see people dwarfed at the base.

still hot after all these years

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yeup. Thanks for a nice send off on Monday morning. VolMom