V&A’s Medieval & Renaissance Galleries
Miri Rubin explores the medieval galleries at the V&A and the British Museum.
The British Museum’s Paul and Jill Ruddock Gallery of Medieval Europe 1050-1500 and the V&A’s Medieval and Renaissance Galleries, both of which opened at the end of 2009, are homes not to new acquisitions but to items from well-established collections, often restored and displayed for the first time.
Organising permanent collections differs substantially from curating an exhibition. In recent years we have become so used to well crafted and themed exhibitions that judging the new face of a permanent collection becomes rather hard. The accidents of gifts and earlier acquisition mean that coverage of periods must sometime appear haphazard. Such facts are not usually noted and discussed and they force curators to make some awkward decisions: thus the V&A has a dedicated space for the work of Donatello and uses parts of the chapel of Santa Chiara in Florence, as an aspect of the Renaissance City, strangely juxtaposed by a choir screen of the Cathedral of St John at ‘s-Hertogenbosch from northern Europe.