FLW at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London

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Oak Park Jogger
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FLW at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London

Post by Oak Park Jogger »

Wright's office from the Kaufmann Department Store in Pittsburgh has been on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London for a number of years, but is not currently open. When we inquired of staff this past week they described this exhibit as "gone away" with no promised date of reopening and gave no expectation that the office would be on display again. The museum is in the midst of a rather significant renovation. And they may (gosh, I don't know why!) think that some of the other parts of their collection are more important so that information about this wonderful space doesn't trickle down to the level of employees who answer questions for tourists. But does anyone know what their plans are for this super exhibit, a good dose of FLW in a city that could use more?

Paul Ringstrom
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Post by Paul Ringstrom »

After hearing that the Kaufmann Office has been dismantled at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and that there are no immediate plans for re-installation I wrote to the museum in June 2007: "When will the Frank Lloyd Wright: Kaufmann Office be put back on display? If not, is it available for purchase by another museum?"

I received this reply from Gareth Williams, Curator
Department of Furniture, Textiles and Fashion at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
---------

Dear Mr Ringstrom

Thank you for your enquiry about the Kaufmann Office designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in the collection of the V&A.

We are working on a long term plan to redisplay our twentieth century collections in a new gallery, and the Kaufmann office would certainly feature there. However, I cannot give you a date for this new gallery.

British law differs from US legislation governing the disposal of objects from museum collections and the sale of objects is very rare, and would only happen under exceptional circumstances. The Kaufmann office, therefore, is not available for sale to another museum.

Yours sincerely

Gareth Williams
Curator
Department of Furniture, Textiles and Fashion Victoria and Albert Museum
South Kensington London
SW7 2RL
+44-(0)20-7942-2287
---------------
I would encourage everyone to drop him and email with your thoughts on this subject at g.williams@vam.ac.uk

JimM
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Post by JimM »

This is possibly good news. I saw the office about 12 years ago, and it was very badly displayed. As I recall, there were huge columns/obstructions around the perimeter, and it was like peeking in at it rather than being able to experience and appreciate it; you could not enter it.

It is not difficult to agree with Toker; was the gift to the museum a slap in the face from Edgar to his father?

SDR
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Post by SDR »

I was not aware of any bad feeling between father and son. . .

Have I missed something ?

SDR

FLWLAB
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Post by FLWLAB »

Thanks Oak Park Jogger for raising this post and Paul Ringstrom for providing more background. I found out the exhibit was in storage last year when I attempted to visit. At the time the V&A said that they needed to update their website because it was still listed as open. They provided a noncommital answer as to when it would be re-opened.

I support Paul's suggestion for Wrightophiles to write to Gareth Williams with our feedback. Important work such as this should not be kept in storage. I realize that not all of us will have a chance to visit, but I think it is important that Wright's work continue to gain exposure worldwide. Every new person who views his work is a possible steward for future generations. We should encourage this when possible.

I encourage everyone to let the V&A know your thoughts, even if you can't visit yourself.

Perhaps we can also encourage a larger Wright-focused organization to lobby the V&A?

SDR
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Post by SDR »

How did it end up in Britain ? I've forgotten. . .

SDR

DRN
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Post by DRN »

SDR: I attended a lecture given by Edgar Kaufmann jr in the Fall of 1986 at Carnegie Mellon. During the Q&A, he noted when asked about the office, that he had it dismantled when he sold his interest in the department store to preserve it, not knowing if it would be maintained by subsequent owners. Kaufmann jr went on to state that he wanted a FLLW presence in Europe, and found the display of a "Wright room" at a major museum to be the most achievable means to that end.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Ah. From the source. Thanks !

SDR

Deke
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Post by Deke »

I also saw the office many years ago...the columns mentioned above are part of the design, where the windows opened. It was kind of odd to just peak in from various openings and not actually get inside the office.

Deke

SDR
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Post by SDR »

I suppose that's more or less typical of museum room displays. I understand that the Little living room at the New York Met is similarly inaccessible. And what of the smaller Little room -- where is that housed ?

It's like museum chairs, perhaps. Conservation is king. I wonder if some future holographic projection system will permit the recreation of spaces so they can be enjoyed, in some manner ? Will virtual reality be the answer ?

Again I argue for replication of original material, so we can have our cake and eat it too. . .

SDR

Deke
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Post by Deke »

The Little living room at the Met you get to walk into a few feet...from two entries...so there is a feeling of being in the room, not peaking through a window. I'm also a fan of reproductions...maybe someday we'll have a "Wrightland" a kind of amusement park of Wright buildings!

Deke

DRN
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Location: Cherry Hill, NJ

Post by DRN »

The installation of the small library from the Little house is located at the Allentown (PA) Art Museum Annex designed by Edgar Tafel. The room was fully accessible and had Wright books on the shelves. I was there in 1981 and 2001, and both times the room was furnished with reproduction barrel chairs dating from the 1970's and a Usonian based square coffee table of Tafel's own design. Guests were invited to linger, sit down and browse through a book. The original fabric of the room is all of the trim, casework, and the windows/french doors. The doors and side lights look out onto a courtyard, and the smaller high windows look into another gallery.

I remember it was my first "in person" encounter with a Prairie interior. The museum and Tafel are to be commended for setting the room up to be a "please touch" experience.

JimM
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Post by JimM »

SDR wrote:I was not aware of any bad feeling between father and son. . .

Have I missed something ?

SDR
I suppose Toker has become the latest Gill! I enjoyed Fallingwater Rising, and in it Toker infers that Edgar always resented being in his fathers shadow, and banished an important part of him (his office) far away.

While there appears to be much learned about Edgar Sr. having more to do with Fallingwater's creation-lore credits Edgar Jr.- there was no mention of DRN's account of the offices' disposition in Toker's book.

JimM
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Post by JimM »

Deke wrote:the columns mentioned above are part of the design, where the windows opened. It was kind of odd to just peak in from various openings and not actually get inside the office.

Deke
It was quite a long time ago for my failing memory, but I thought the window locations were permanently louvered, and that the columns were part of the museum structure.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

http://www4.bfn.org/bah/a/archs/wright/va/index.html

Close-up of label, probably at V&A; the "solid plywood" is undoubtedly meant to read "solid wood"
http://www4.bfn.org/bah/a/archs/wright/ ... ce/11.html

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