Review: V&A Dundee
By Nisan Igdem
In September 2018, as a part of the development program of Dundee’s waterfront, the first V&A museum away from London has opened. V&A Dundee prides itself on being Scotland’s first design museum. Although the museum is only a couple months old, it is receiving both praise and criticism for its architecture and exhibition spaces.
By far the most striking aspect about Dundee’s new museum is the building. Designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, it is largely inspired by “the cliffs on Scotland’s north-eastern coastline”. The shape is also reminiscent of a ship, an ode to the shipbuilding tradition of the city.
The inside of the museum is very spacious, with a café and a gift shop on the first floor and the gallery spaces on the second. Despite its vast interior, the museum is, of course, not as big as the V&A in London. Nevertheless, it houses the largest temporary exhibition space in Scotland. Unfortunately, some people criticise the architecture of the building, claiming it has no practical value.
Rowan Moore from The Guardian has noted that although the museum is built on the water, further drawing on the shipbuilding theme; there are no chances to see the river, except from a small viewing balcony. The article also underlines that the abstract-geometric design of the building may be overshadowing its purpose at times, especially in the social spaces.
The museum focuses specifically on Scottish design. The permanent gallery space, which is free admission, explores design in Scotland from seventeenth century to present. It has one of the early examples of a kaleidoscope, The Oak Room, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh in 1907, Hunter wellies from 1980s, and video games from the 21st century.
The permanent exhibition gives a breath of what Scottish designers have accomplished over the years. Even though the exhibition is very fascinating, unfortunately, it is not very big. It leaves the visitor asking for more. However, the temporary exhibition space, currently housing Ocean Liners: Speed and Style, seems promising, as the V&A Dundee already started announcing their upcoming exhibitions, one being Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt, which will be available for visitors from 20 April 2019. The museum also welcomes school groups, hosts talks and workshops.
V&A Dundee is a part of the development plan of Dundee’s waterfront. There is, of course, much to be done in and out of the museum. However, with its focus on Scottish design and the changes it symbolises with its architecture, the museum is already worth a visit.
Amber Keating, ‘V&A Dundee Announces Next Exhibitions’, V&A Blog, 21 November 2018. (https://www.vam.ac.uk/blog/news/va-dundee-announces-next-exhibitions)
‘Everything You Need to Know About V&A Dundee’, BBC News, 12 September 2018. (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-45197154)
Rowan Moore, ‘V&A Dundee Review - A Flawed Treasure House on the Tay’, The Guardian, 15 September 2018. (https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/sep/15/victoria-and-albert-museum-dundee-v-and-a-flawed-treasure-house-on-the-tay)