I have been thinking about this a lot and what I am about to write is probably not fair and it could be argued that I am comparing Apples with Oranges. This being said, I don’t think the V&A at Dundee is that good (This is hard for me to write as I had travelled over 350 miles to visit the institution). The building is superb – a striking statement on the side of the wide Firth of Tay as you dive across the bridge towards Dundee. When you walk in it is just as breathtaking as there is this vast space tapering out all around you like an upturned pyramid. The cafe at the base of this space is really good and ticks all the environmental friendly boxes.
You can take the stairs or the lift, if you can the stairs are by far the best way of ascending to the exhibition space as it allows you to really appreciate the size, scale and grandeur of the main hall. This all adds to the rising excitement as you get to the first floor – the exhibitions and the space in which they are held must be something special if the main halls is anything to go by. Then you realise that there isn’t much space on the exhibition floor and what there is is poorly utilised. To be fair to the V&A they were in middle of replacing one temporary exhibition with another so you can only view the permanent Scottish Design galleries and a small area devoted to fashion design (Studio Nichols Daley). Unfortunately the Scottish Design area is way too small and all the exhibits are crammed one on top of the other that gives little space for each item to breath. I left there feeling rushed and somewhat cheated because there were a number of very interesting items I would have loved to spend a lot more time with but couldn’t because of the lack of space. . The most engaging and engaged with item on the whole floor was a mechanical arm that was making bubbles.
Even with the new gallery open there really isn’t that much exhibition space for such a large building. On the way back to the hotel whilst discussing this with my wife I came to the conclusion that the best way to sum up the experience of visiting the V&A at Dundee is the Not the 9 o’clock news spoof pop video…Nice Video, Shame about the Song.
It has been nearly a week since I visited the V&A at Dundee and haven’t changed my mind. The failings of the V&A at Dundee came into greater contrast today after I visited the National Space Centre at Leicester.
You have to pay to get into the museum but you actually get a far better experience. Of course the subject is always going to be an exciting one when compared to the aesthetic of design but there is one fact that I think sums up the failing of the V&A when compared to the National Space Centre: There is only c1100 sq metres of exhibition space at the V&A compared to the c4900 sq metres at the Space Centre. Of course a lot of the space is used up with exhibitions aimed at children (the school kids going around the museum today seemed to be really engaging with the exhibitions) but that is not a bad thing. The National Space Centre has a much more workaday feel compared to the V&A but I don’t think that is a bad thing – in fact compared to the refined atmosphere it was positively refreshing.
The building itself is not as architecturally accomplished as the V&A but does that really matter? The most important thing is the lasting lessons that you come away with and perhaps it is just me but I came away feeling I got value for money from the National Space Centre whilst I felt short changed by the V&A. I feel really sad writing that sentence but that is the way I feel. Perhaps should you visit or have visited the V&A you may well feel differently and there is nothing wrong with that.