The V&A Museum is doubling the size of its Photography Centre and has confirmed that the new galleries will open on 25th May 2023.

The current galleries sit on the second floor of the museum in two large long rooms that opened as the Photography Centre in 2018. What’s unseen is that behind them is a series of smaller rooms that were added to the museum in the late 1850s as spaces for paintings and a potential site for the National Gallery.

Location of new galleries – edited V&A Museum map

Never used for the National Gallery, and although at one time opened as museum galleries, in recent decades they’ve been closed to the public and used as teaching and seminar spaces. Over the past couple of years though, they’ve been refurbished to both restore the original appearance, and also make the suitable for modern use, such as the addition of air cooling systems.

Pre restoration gallery room (source: V&A planning documents)

When it opens, the additional space will be used to provide two more galleries, a library and reading room, and an interpretation space.

The V&A has collected and exhibited photography since the founding of the museum in the 1850s, and today its collection is one of the largest and most varied in the world. Phase One of the museum’s Photography Centre opened in 2018, with three galleries designed by David Kohn. May 2023 sees the completion of the second and final phase of the Photography Centre with an additional four galleries, with base-build designed by Purcell, and fit-out designed by Gibson Thornley Architects.

Proposed library room (source: V&A planning documents)

On completion, the Photography Centre will also feature new, themed displays, presenting works from the 1840s to the present day, beginning with Energy: Sparks from the Collection, exploring how all photographs need some form of energy to exist, and a smaller display, How Not to Photograph a Bulldog, featuring dog photography manuals from the Royal Photographic Society Library.

Marta Weiss, V&A Senior Curator of Photography and Lead Curator of Phase Two of the Photography Centre, said: “Photography lies at the heart of the V&A. The museum has collected photography since 1852 and continues to acquire the best of contemporary practice. As photography plays an ever-increasing role in all our lives, the expanded Photography Centre will be more relevant than ever. We look forward to welcoming visitors to explore the medium’s diverse histories and enjoy our world-leading collection.”

The V&A’s current Photography Centre (Rooms 99 – 101) will be closed from 6th February 2023 to allow final works to take place. The complete Photography Centre will re-open 25 May 2023.

Layout of the new rooms (source: V&A planning documents)

As the new galleries sit right next to the long tapestry room, the addition of air cooling for the new galleries also enabled an upgrade for the tapestries as well.

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