This new exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum effectively whisks visitors from London to India, while showcasing some stunning objects.
There is an extraordinary amount of history, variety and detail in this latest V&A exhibition which explores the life and career of John Lockwood Kipling, a man who donated quite a few objects to the museum’s collection as it transformed from the South Kensington Museum to the Victoria and Albert Museum that we know today.
Beginning with the Great Exhibition of 1851 which inspired Lockwood to becoming a designer and artist, the display takes visitors on a journey to explore his fascination and passion for Indian craftsmanship and his efforts to preserve the techniques and the objects that were the end result.
There is no denying that the Victoria and Albert Museum have expertly crafted an exhibition that weaves history, the passion of one man and the vibrancy of Indian culture into a fascinating display which certainly feels like a cave of wonders.
Throughout, visitors get a real sense of the respect and awe that Lockwood must have had when encountering and encouraging arts and crafts during his time in India. His voice is constantly used, with quotations dotted all over the place or Lockwood’s own drawings that he was commissioned to draw by the Government of India as part of the British strategy to understand better the country’s culture and society.
But it would have been even better if the exhibition had been allowed to breathe in a slightly bigger space to really explore how the Great Exhibition really influenced his desire to become a designer or for the V&A to highlight some of the most important pieces that he donated to the museum’s collection.
While in the opening section, it feels as though the exhibition is going to lack somewhat in structure, the further into it that visitors go the structure of the display begins to feel stronger and a lot more purposeful, conveying Lockwood’s attention to detail but adding the context of the British relationship with India at this particular time.
Gorgeously exotic to look at and a deeply fascinating story, this is an exhibition that is well worth a visit.
Lockwood Kipling: Arts and Crafts in the Punjab and London is on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum until the 2nd April. For more information visit: https://www.vam.ac.uk/exhibitions/lockwood-kipling-arts-and-crafts-in-the-punjab-and-london#intro.