Design museums and galleries are set to reopen in May – this is what you can see

As cultural institutions begin to reopen from mid-May, these are the exhibitions and dates to remember.

V&A Dundee – club culture exhibition

V&A Dundee’s Night Fever exhibition will be one of the first shows to open in the UK, with Scotland coming out of lockdown earlier than the rest on 1 May. Appropriate too, that it will explore a world that most of us haven’t seen for more than a year: clubbing. Night Fever will delve into iconic clubs from New York, Paris, Florence, Manchester, London, Bierut and Berlin – as well as those in towns and cities across Scotland. The show will cover how the progressive and subversive history of nightclub design has influenced pop culture, from Studio 54 to the Haçienda.

The original Night Fever exhibition was developed by the Vitra Museum and ADAM – Brussels Design Museum and V&A Dundee will be the only place to see it in the UK. As mentioned already, it will also feature an exclusive section on Scotland’s “unique and distinct”  club scene. According to the museum, the Scottish club scene is built with an ethos of DIY, togetherness and a tight knit community of DJs, promoters and clubs.

Head over to the V&A Dundee website for more details.

House of Illustration – Raymond Briggs retrospective heads to Winchester

The original plan for the first ever retrospective of author-illustrator Raymond Briggs was that it would be shown at London’s House of Illustration in 2020 – unfortunately the pandemic saw this idea scrapped. However all is not lost for Briggs fans, as the exhibition will so be going on tour and available to see for the first time in Winchester at the city’s Discovery Centre from 17 May.

The retrospective will showcase never-before-seen material from Briggs’ personal archive, as well as give insight into well-known and well-loved classics. There will be original artwork on display from The Snowman (1980) and pioneering graphic novel Ethel & Ernest (1998).

You can find more information on the exhibition from the House of Illustration website.

Japan House – Sudō Reiko textile exhibition

In its upcoming exhibition, London’s Japan House will examine the innovative work of Japanese textile designer Sudō Reiko. Reiko is renowned for “pushing boundaries” and championing new methods of sustainable manufacturing, according to Japan House, and has been practising her craft for more than 30 years.

Reiko’s textile designs often combine Japanese craft traditions with new engineering techniques and unusual materials, using anything from silk, to thermoplastic, nylon tape or hand-made washi paper. The unconventional approach to the craft will be explored throughout MAKING NUNO: Japanese Textile Innovation from Sudō Reiko using large-scale installations that highlight the manufacturing processes used in Reiko’s work. There will also be a recurring theme of sustainability throughout the showcase, as well as explorations into regional manufacturing and traditional craftsmanship.

The Japan House website has more information on this exhibition.

Design Museum – sneakers and Charlotte Perriand exhibitions

The Design Museum has two large exhibitions slated for its reopening in 2021. The first, which should be available to visit once the museum gets the green light to open in May, is Sneakers Unboxed: From Studio to Street. The museum says sneakers are one of the most universal design objects in the world, since they’re worn by millions of people every day. This exhibition will be split into two sections, Style and Performance, and will invite visitors to explore the design and science behind trainers, as well as the cultural impact the shoes have had.

The second exhibition, which is set to open in June, is a retrospective on French interior designer Charlotte Perriand. A pioneer of modernist design, Perriand was one of the design giants of the 20th century. Her early career saw her frequently overshadowed by her male peers and collaborators, however the museum says her later reputation as a furniture designer “matched the stature of her peers”. The exhibition will be split into three sections: The Machine Age, Nature and the Synthesis of the Arts, and Modular Design for Modern Living. It will invite visitors to step inside recreations of some of her most famous interiors, while exploring her life as a “fiercely independent woman”.

The Design Museum website has more information on the exhibitions and how to book tickets.

Barbican – new summer programme

Credit: Claudia Andujar

The Barbican is preparing to begin reopening its offering from 17 May with a whole new programme for spring and summer. Among the highlights will be an “ambitious” installation and public programme on how our buildings and public spaces are designed and who they’re designed for. How We Live Now: Reimagining Spaces with the Matrix Feminist Design Co-operative will be available to visit as soon as the Barbican reopens.

A major exhibition dedicated to Brazilian activist and artist Claudia Andujar will also be coming to the Barbican estate in June. The Yanomami Struggle will comprise more than 200 photographs, an audio-visual installation and a series of drawings – taking visitors through Claudia’s five decade-long relationship with the indigenous Yanomami people and her fight to protect and support them.

You can find out more about these shows and the rest of the programme on the Barbican website.

Museum of the Home – reopening after renovation

After more than three years behind closed doors, the Museum of the Home is aiming to reopen in May pending government say so. While closed to the public, the museum has undergone a £18.1 million renovation, which included a redevelopment of the space’s 300-year old buildings, a new entrance and the introduction of 80% more exhibition space.

The museum’s newly renovated permanent Home Galleries, located in the building’s lower-ground floor, will focus on personal experience of home and explore diverse historical and contemporary stories. Visitors will also be able to travel through history with the museum’s Rooms Through Time exhibits, which will showcase how interiors and home environments were designed. This experience will be bookended by two new displays, one of which will cover “domestic game changers”, from house bricks to smart tech.

Head to the Museum of the Home website to find out more about its reopening offering.

V&A – Alice in Wonderland, bags, and Iran

The V&A will be opening in May with its long-awaited Alice in Wonderland exhibition, which is housed in the museum’s Sainsbury Gallery. Eager fans are already able to see some of the content of the exhibition online, however the in-person experience promises to entertain too. The blockbuster exhibition will traverse 157-year history of the tale, covering its various adaptations and reinventions across art, fashion, film, theatre and more. Highlights will no doubt include insight into fashion giants’ like Vivienne Westwood and theatre performances by the National Theatre and Royal Ballet.

Also available to visit when the museum reopens will be an in-depth look into the history of bags and an exploration of creativity in Iran. Bags: Inside Out will explore the style and design history of the “ultimate accessory”, while Epic Iran will chart 5,000 years of art, design and culture in the country.

Check out the V&A website for more details on thee upcoming exhibitions.

Science and Industry Museum – a new space and secret communications exhibition

We’ve got no exact date yet on when Manchester’s Science and Industry Museum will be opening, however we do know it will open with Top Secret: From Ciphers to Cyber Security. This exhibition, which focuses on the history of secret communications, code breaking and ciphers throughout the last century, will be housed in the museum’s newly rebuilt £5 million exhibition space.

Top Secret first found fans at the London Science Museum, but its new home in Manchester holds extra significance as the city is the location of GCHQ’s newest avowed office. GCHQ, the UK’s intelligence and cyber agency, features heavily in the exhibition. Artefacts on display will include hand-written documents, declassified files and objects from both the agency’s and Science Museum Group’s historic collections.

The Science and Industry Museum website is where you’ll find more information on Top Secret.

Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft – John Vernon Lord exhibition

The East Sussex-based museum has plans to reopen post-lockdown in May in line with government advice, and will feature a retrospective of illustrator John Vernon Lord as its first exhibition. Taking a Line for a Walk will mark 50 years of the beloved local illustrator’s life and work, which included illustrating English literary classics from the likes of Lewis Carroll, James Joyce and Edward Lear.

Alongside his creative work, Lord was also a children’s author in his own right and made a huge, decades-long impact on education practices in the UK. The exhibition will feature more than 100 pen and ink drawings from Lord and notebooks from throughout his career – the museum says the offering will span his life as a student in the 1950s, through his move to Ditchling in the 1970s and into his creative processes in response to the pandemic.

The Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft website will have more information on when and how to buy tickets for the exhibition.

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