The V&A is the place to go to this autumn to see two stunning exhibitions on pearls and Chinese paintings
The Victoria & Albert Museum is always a treasure trove of visual inspiration but this autumn it is firmly on the list of the must-visit places, thanks to two extraordinary exhibitions. Pearls, which opened on 21 September, explores the history, myths and legends of this marine jewel – and celebrates their breathtaking beauty. Masterpieces of Chinese Painting, which opens on 26 October, tracks how Chinese art evolved during the course of 1200 years (from 700 to 1900). The exhibition showcases more than 70 masterpieces, some of which have never been seen in the UK before. The V&A shop also stocks a range of jewels, books and fashion accessories inspired by the exhibitions.
Image: 2013 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Rare and mysterious, pearls have long been a symbol of elegance, glamour and wealth, but also of purity and authority. This dramatic new exhibition by the V&A and the Qatar Museums Authority traces the history of pearls through paintings, objects and extraordinary jewellery. A magnificent cavalcade across tiaras, brooches, necklaces and earrings shows how both the fashion and the meaning of pearls changed over time - from a symbol of charity in medieval paintings of the Virgin Mary to the most sought-after accessory of the newly assertive woman of the Roaring Twenties. The exhibition also explores the dazzling variety of pearls from the exotic pink conch pearl to the blue-green abalone pearl and the orange-hued Melo. Timed tickets are in operation for the Pearls exhibition and can be booked online through the V&A website.
Image: Albion Art
The perfect necklace to celebrate the Pearls exhibition, this head-turning piece features many rows of soft gold keshi pearls and a sterling silver clasp. Exclusive to the V&A, it is priced at £975 through the V&A Shop and online at vandashop.com.
Designed by Lili Murphy Johnson, this unusual bracelet uses steel orthodontic brace brackets to hold together a set of freshwater pearls, making them look like a set of teeth. As Lili puts it, it is both a brace and a bracelet. Designed exclusively for the V&A, it is priced at £95 through the V&A Shop and online at vandashop.com.
The Japanese plum blossom was the inspiration behind this splendid brooch by Michael Michaud. Patinated bronze is used to create the branch (which is moulded on an actual plum-tree branch) while freshwater pearls are used to recreate the pretty blossoms. Priced £85 through the V&A Shop and online at vandashop.com.
This dramatic five-string necklace combines iridescent cream and peach keshi pearls of different shapes and sizes. It can worn twisted or long and is priced at £350 through the V&A Shop and online at vandashop.com.
Both motto and a piece of advice, 'Put on Your Pearls, Girls' is the quote that inspired this unusual scarf, designed by Lulu Guiness exclusively for the V&A. Made of 100% silk, it is priced at £50 through the V&A Shop and online at vandashop.com.
China has one of the world's greatest artistic traditions and the V&A's new exhibition, which opens on 26 October, explores it in full. Featuring more than 70 masterpieces - from tiny works to a gigantic 14-metre scroll painting - it tracks the evolution of the style and subjects of Chinese paintings between 700, when many of the surviving works were linked to Buddhist liturgies, and 1900, when Western influences become increasingly important. Many of the works have never been seen in the UK before. The exhibition also looks at the different settings and materials used in painting, examining the techniques used for painting on silk. Timed tickets for Masterpieces of Chinese Paintings can be booked online through the V&A website.
Image: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City/John Lamberton
The V&A shop stocks a collection of products inspired by the Masterpieces of Chinese Paintings exhibition. Among them is this stunning, limited edition scarf, which was inspired by the works on show and was created exclusively for the V&A by X+Q Art, a brand that brings together contemporary Chinese artists Xiang Jing and Qu Guangci. Hand crafted using 100% heavy 16 Mumi Class A Chinese silk, Landscape Mash-Up is priced at £85 through the V&A Shop and online at vandashop.com.
Created exclusively for the V&A by contemporary Chinese brand X+Q Art, this limited-edition, luxurious scarf, made with 100% heavy 16 Mumi Class A Chinese silk, gives a modern take on a theme - cranes - that's typical in Chinese art and widely featured in the Masterpieces of Chinese Paintings exhibition. It's priced at £150 through the V&A Shop and online at vandashop.com.