Gothic beacon

The Victoria and Albert Museum will lend its uppermost dome to a Mat Collishaw installation which will turn the museum into a sort of Gothic beacon torn from the pages of a romantic novel.

Magic Lantern uses the principles of a zoetrope to create an illusion of fluttering moths within the dome and can be seen from vantage points across South Kensington this winter, including Cromwell Road and Exhibition Road.

Collishaw's Magic Lantern
Collishaw’s Magic Lantern

The zoetrope, designed by William George Horner in 1834 creates the illusion of moving images from stills perceived through a cylinder with viewing holes. 

Collishaw’s installation uses the geometry of the tower to imitate this effect. It will be visible from dusk until dawn and has been designed to explore the conflict between beauty and innocence with unrest and mystery. Add to that Gothicism and superstition – leitmotifs in most of Collishaw’s work – and it all goes a bit Mysteries of Udolpho.   

Magic Lantern by Mat Collishaw
Magic Lantern by Mat Collishaw

This will be the first time the space has been used for an exhibition and the first time the building has taken on the presence of a castle from  Gothic romanticism.

Visitors won’t be able to go up to the dome but it can be seen from the V&A cafe and from the John Madejski garden where a less terrifying model can be seen up-close. 

VA’s Crown Cupola
V&A’s Crown Cupola

Magic Lantern runs from 26 November 2010 until 27 March 2011.

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  • David Redhead November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    David Redhead, Producer of V&A Channel, the V&A’s on-line film channel here. We are shooting a film of the making and installation of the Zoetrope including footage of Mat shot in the uppermost V&A tower. Should be spectacular and will be available on V&A channel from the 26th November: See our films at

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