The V&A Museum of Childhood, website review.

by Valentina Fois


The V&A Museum of Childhood website is user-friendly, the sections are well organised, and all the information is clearly displayed; everything is very easy to find and understand. Overall, this is a good website that serves the purpose of informing the visitors what’s on at the Museum, together with information about its collections, facilities, and activities. Everything looks neat and is tidily arranged, and that is how it should be, considering the quantity of information available on the site. However, it could be given a fresh look, perhaps making use of stronger colours. Would it not be fun, for example, to see an engaging icon (a small star or a little flower) instead of a neutral white glove when moving the mouse pointer around the site?

While navigating the website I found a few things that could definitely be improved. I will suggest how and why below.

Considering that museum visitors are getting more digitally aware and, furthermore, most have a presence on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, the Museum team should really invest time and resources on making the site as interactive as possible. This doesn’t necessarily mean having a crazily interactive 3D cartoon or a few apps; sometimes a simple thing like a blog can really help.

The Museum’s website does actually have a blog, but this is not easily discovered. The blog is located under the ‘Collections’ section instead of being part of the main menu at the top of the page. That is probably because the blog is not considered a priority, thus accounting for its location and the poor frequency of its posts. This is a missed opportunity to engage with visitors and share updates with them on the current show, upcoming events, news, and so much more. A well-developed blog could have a positive impact on the Museum as, through their comments, visitors could help in shaping the Museum’s programme and events.

Here, I would suggest creating a sort of diary or journal. Perhaps the blog could tells the adventures of a young child, who every week discovers a new object from the Museum’s collection. This would be easily maintained and would cost little. In return for the effort, the Museum could promote its collections and let people discover a new item every week. This is, of course, only one example; there are many ideas that potentially could be explored.

The ‘Collection’ section is well-structured and easy to navigate; for me, this is the best section of the website. However, there are a few small items that could be developed further. The ‘Share’ button could be more visible in order to encourage people to share the pictures and the information about a selected object; ultimately, the site could be made more visually appealing and playful—after all, this is a museum for children!

In places, the text is a little bit too long and too dense. It would be good to have a zoom function when clicking on the image; however, the image does get larger once you click on it and perhaps the zoom function is not essential at this stage.

The ‘Learning’ section is bursting with useful information for schools and the Museum runs a variety of teaching sessions in situ. However, as regards the virtual experience, something more could be on offer for those who cannot actually pay a physical visit to the Museum. It would be worth considering incorporating videos and podcasts about the current exhibition.

There is a brilliant virtual tour of the Museum. This is currently located under both the ‘Visit us’ section and the ‘Corporate and private hire’ section. I would enlarge the area to make it more visible and place it under the ‘Visit us’ section only.

The Museum’s pages on social networks are updated frequently and appear very engaging. I like the fact that you can see the latest Twitter posts on the home page. It would not hurt to have the social networks icons (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flicker) a little bit bolder.

In all, it seems to me that the website is too timid, and does not allow the Museum’s virtues to shine; this is a pity as the Museum has such a dazzling collection. I hope that my tentative suggestions above might help in brightening up the site.


Venice Biennale 2013

by Valentina Fois

Venice, Venice, you are so beautiful.
Yes, I just got back from Venice and I am still excited about my visit. Now I am sitting at my desk still recovering from a post-holiday sugar coma.
I love Venice, what is not to like? The weather was great, the food was way too good, the coffees were not that expensive (yes I am not lying, I have managed to get few espresso for less than €2) and on top of that I met my lovely mum there for a family gateway.

We went to check the Biennale and few collateral events, the sites were not that busy so we had the opportunity to really enjoy the shows. What I really love about the Biennale is the Giardini, walking around surrounded by pines, discovering works of art from all over the world. I had the chance to see so much art in so little time, this is incredible.

Walking throughout the pavilions you can get a taste of different cultures, traditions and trends in the arts. There were many video installations as well as few interactive works. The best video and sculptural installation I have seen was Ryan Trecartin’s ‘Not Yet Titled’, this takes up a whole room of the Arsenale. There are four videos, all referencing reality tv, a sort of window on pop culture and youth, a very original take on contemporary culture.

I liked Massimiliano Gioni’s curatorial selection for the show in the Arsenale, however some of the rooms were filled with too many works, it made me feel overwhelmed and it was difficult to enjoy some of the works.

Here are my favourite pavilions, I selected them for different reasons, if you have visited them too then share your thoughts!

Jeremy Deller, British pavilion, english heritage and pride. Who does not like a cup of tea?

Vadim Zakharov, Russian Pavilion, curated by Udo Kittelmann (Director of the Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen Berlin). This is the first time that Russian Pavilion is curated by a citizen of another country. An attempt to secure attention? Well, it works. One of the best pavilions.

If you want to experience death while you are alive then you must visit the Korean Pavilion. Kimsooja transformed the venue into a place of transcendental experience, dealing with issues relating to the body, self and others, death and life.

Israel Pavilion, Gilad Ratman’s The Workshop is based on a fictional journey from Israel to Venice taken by a group of people. This epic trip starts in the caves of Israel, before emerging through the floor of the Israeli pavilion. Once inside the pavilion, the group turn the space into a workshop, sculpting themselves in clay they have transported from Israel.

Don’t miss the Venice Biennale.

Things I like, Things to see

Art Everywhere, How to blipp…

by Valentina Fois

Art Everywhere has finally started, the project is really exciting and ambitious. This enables audiences to connect with art works in a new way, bringing them into a closer relationship with the arts and creating new ways for them to engage with British art. I had a look at the website and I have discovered so many interesting works of art. I look forward to seeing the billboards across London.

Also it is worth mentioning the fantastic app Blippar created for the project, all the Art Everywhere poster sites are interactive via your mobile phone. It is really simple and fun to use.

Follow Art Everywhere on twitter @arteverywhereUK

Art Everywhere
Showcasing great British art across the UK, Art Everywhere is the largest exhibition of its kind in the world. From the 12–25 August 2013 some of the nation’s greatest art is on display across 22,000 poster sites and billboards up and down the country. Artists, curators, media owners and entrepreneurs joined by a love of art have fuelled this massive charitable celebration, and the general public crowd-funded over £30,000 to help make it happen

Things I like, Things to see

Alternative Guide to the Universe @Hayward gallery

by Valentina Fois

Last Saturday I went for a walk at Southbank Centre, the weather was lovely and everywhere was full of families and tourists. There is a food market that always have an incredible selections of delicatesse from all over the world, it nearly took me twenty minutes to make my mind up and buy a tomato focaccia, umm delicious. Since I was there I of course went to check the current exhibition at the Hayward gallery, Alternative Guide to the Universe.

Alternative Guide to the Universe surveys an artistic landscape that stretches to the far horizons of our imagination. Featuring contributions from self-taught artists and unlicensed architects, fringe physicists and visionary inventors, it serves up bracingly fresh perspectives on the world we live in.”

I enjoyed the show, it was nice to walk around and discover many interesting drawings and projects. I particularly liked Eugene Von Bruenchenhein’s work, I would love to show you some images but at the Hayward gallery they obstinately not allow you to take pictures of the works. I went on their website with the hope to find some images of some of the works I like but I am afraid they are only featuring 5 images which I don’t think well represent the exhibited works and certainly they don’t do justice to the whole show.

I was also really intrigued by the work of Paul Laffoley.

Eugene Von Bruenchenhein

Paul Laffoley

I recommend this show to anyone who likes unusual works on paper and architecture projects and drawings. The show is definitely a good treat for family and children.

Exhibition Reviews, Things I like, Things to see

The House of PERONI

by Valentina Fois

We are extremely excited for the opening of The House of PERONI tonight. For the month of July, The House of Peroni opens its doors at 41 Portland Place in central London. The House of Peroni celebrates the new wave of contemporary Italian culture.

You can see the contribution of our friend Carlo Bernardini – The celebrated artist creating dimension shattering, futuristic light installations The celebrated artist creating dimension shattering, futuristic light installations that bring interior spaces to life.

Here is our friend and artist Ludovica Gioscia inside TimeOut. She has exhibited with us in PREPOSTEROUS

Artists, Things I like, Things to see

Patrick Caulfield and Gary Hume @ Tate Britain

by Valentina Fois

Last Sunday I went to the Tate Britain to see its new two blockbuster shows, Patrick Caulfield and Gary Hum.

I love them both so I must say I was quite excited about it. I started with Hume’s show. This was nicely curated, I did not feel overwhelmed by the quantity of the works, these were nicely selected and ordered across the exhibition space. I wish I could show you some of my favorite paintings but visitors are not allowed to take pictures. However you can click here and visit their website or even better go and check the exhibition yourself.

Gary Hume, The Moon 2009

Here I just want to say, as previously mentioned in some of my writings, that Tate is really missing an opportunity to engage with their audience, people want to share with friends and family and often with strangers what they are up too. We live in a digital world and a decision not to allow visitors to take picture is really ancient especially for such a striving institution such as Tate Britain, her sister, Tate Modern lunched Magic Tate Ball app last year, this was an incredible success and a perfect example on how to engage the public. I have often heard curators say that the reason why pictures are not allowed is because some works are on loan from private collectors whom do not wish these works to be photographed. Well, perhaps is the time to think about a creative way to let the public takes pictures of their favorite pieces while respecting the will of these collectors. An invigilator could kindly explain to visitors not to take a picture of a particular work, or in the leaflet it could be explained that some works cannot be photographed while encouraging the audience to interact with the show through sharing their thoughts and pictures on Tate’s social networks.

Ok let’s get back to Hume, as Tate Britain says: “this exhibition highlights Hume’s innovative use of colour, line and surface in his distinctive compositions” and I couldn’t agree more with this.

The large scale works literally hypnotizing you and make you feel calm, they have however a bitter aftertaste as they carry with them a feeling of melancholy. I find Hume work really hard to read as well as irresistible. Gary Hume is for me one of the most interesting contemporary artists we have.

Then I went to see Caulfied’ s exhibition and I felt in love with him, once again! Patrick Caulfield’s use of color is something hard to be described, the way the artists played with different color combinations is extraordinary, he created a perfect equilibrium of cold and hot tints, all his compositions are perfectly balanced in a triumph of harmony and proportion. Yeah, I’m excited about it! I totally recommend this show to everyone, especially to folks working or interested in fashion. I found it to be very inspiring, a joy for textile designers!

Patrick Caulfield, After Lunch 1975

Go, go, really go and check these two shows.


Things I like, Things to see

Walking on Water – Mohammed Kazem – UAE Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2013

by Jeff Ko

Representing the UAE at this years Venice Biennale, Mohammed Kazem, presents an immersive work comprised of a 360-degree projection of the sea and illuminated interchangeable GPS coordinates within an enclosed circular space.

This work is one within a binary position, that of the actual and the poetic. Allowing us to be submerged within the moving landscape of the sea. Slightly disorientating the viewer, Kazem sets up an environment that could easily have become theatrical but steadily stays fixed in its place and seriousness. Balancing the panorama of the ocean and all of its romantic connotations, Kazem stabilizes us in reality, perhaps in an uber sense, stating our projected position with absolute accuracy through the means of a Geographical Positioning System (GPS). The execution of his concept existing within a convexed amphitheatre and echoing this circularity in the viewing platform and GPS display Kazem suggests larger notions, both mathematical and romantic, at times harmonising and conflicting both concepts.


Artists, Things I like

U from Uruguay, Martin Sastre – Venice Biennale 2013

by Jeff Ko

At this years Venice Biennale Uruguay is housed under the Latin American Pavillion and represented by Martin Sastre. Here Sastre presents us with ‘U from Uruguay’, a perfume bottle and an advertisement for the said product. The advertisement is portrayed as a regular luxury item but the work also informs of us of the president of Uruguay, how he donates 90% of his wage to charity and how the flower extracts for the perfume have been cultivated in the Presidents garden, not in the presidential home expected from him but from his humble farm house outside of the capital.
Borrowing the aesthetic of commercial advertising Sastre contrasts his intention with the work, to raise awareness of Uruguay and its leaders exemplary lifestyle with that of luxury and capitalism. Echoing the presidents gesture, 90% of the monetary gain from the perfuming will be given to charity.
This work plays a successful role in the conversation between politics and art. Here Sastre shows us that it is possible to merge both in a way that doesn’t degrade either. Sastre provides a work that is both accessible and worthy of acclaim.
Subasta en Venecia • \”U from Uruguay\” El Perfume del Pepe

Artists, Things I like, Things to see

Mark Manders – Dutch Pavilion – Venice Biennale 2012

by Jeff Ko

The Dutch pavilion at this years Venice Biennale is not one of the most welcoming, with all of the windows covered in fake newspapers, intending to separate the outside world from the inner workings of Mark Manders.
At a first glance Manders work seems to slot right into an established art context, referencing art history whilst maintaining a relevant and progressive approach. The relationship with art history and the history of sculpture seems to be an integral part of Manders work, the materials, the explicit executions and the use of the figure.
The press release provided informs us that instead of the materiality suggested Manders work is mostly constructed with epoxy or bronze rather that clay, throwing all of our initial presumptions into the wind.
Manders work is in a dialogue with the history of sculpture, appropriating notions of a somewhat classicist aesthetic in portrait works such as ‘Composition with Blue’ and his varies ‘Studies’ juxtaposed with more contemporary aesthetics such as the readymade.
There is a large sense of curiosity in Manders work. As the title of the show suggests ‘ Room with broken sentence’ Mander seems to be in a conversation with the world, questioning and trying to process it. In Fox/Mouse/Belt a fox lies on the ground with a mouse tied to its belly with a belt. The materiality is of wet clay but in actual fact is painted Bronze. Here Manders is freezing time, reducing movement to a single image that manages to evoke an alternate time ‘without a before or after’.  The only moment that the sculpture seems to capture is that of the future,  ‘the possibility that you could press your fingers into it at any time’, which is of course illusionistic.
There are three version simultaneously on show, most interestingly in a nearby supermarket in Via Garibaldi;
“I always test a work that I’ve just finished in a supermarket. I just imagine a new work there and I check if it can survive where it doesn’t have the label of an artwork. It is just a thing that someone placed in a supermarket. Now I am sure that all of my works can stand in that environment”.
Manders work has grown organically from art history and manages to provide a new direction for its evolution, one that is both curious and exciting.

Artists, sculpture

Katja Strunz – Berlinische Galerie

by Jeff Ko

Until the 2nd of September, Katja Strunz is showing work in the entrance hall of the Berlinische Galerie. Four pieces, 3 sculptural works and one work on paper, whilst the curation of the show seems balanced, the necessity of having four pieces seems perhaps doubtful. The space is rightfully dominated by two large-scale sculptural works titled ‘ Tellurische Kontraktion’ and ‘Tellurischer Riemen’.

Tellurischer Kontraktion greets you on entrance into the space resembling a scrunched up piece of paper, its close resemblance to the everyday object allows us to imagine an aspect of movement and a closeness that is quite unexpected from blackened steel and aluminum. The piece, when unfolded holds the capacity of the exhibition space questioning notions of space and perception. The scale of the work allows the steel to, in itself achieve a successful execution of its own materiality whilst at the same time embodying the materiality and structure of paper.

Behind Tellurischer Kontraktion, commanding attention from the get-go is Teller Riemen, again, blackened steel, but this time the piece stands at a height of 8 meters, supported by a steel rope and an internal frame which gives the piece its form. Again this piece references the everyday object allowing us to imagine how the work would materially function yet in reality removing that function and creating a space in which to look at the formal in another context.



Artists, sculpture