Du côté de chez Swann

Courtesy the Artists and Victoria Miro, London © Elmgreen & Dragset Image © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Courtesy the Artists and Victoria Miro, London
© Elmgreen & Dragset
Image © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

It was one of those urban ‘!?!?’ moments. I was leaving the V&A a couple of days ago when I saw this huge hoarding outside, advertising luxury apartments in the museum. For a moment I wondered whether the funding cuts had finally forced the V&A to convert some of its space into high-end accomodation. But I was in a rush and didn’t have time to investigate.

Courtesy the Artists and Victoria Miro, London © Elmgreen & Dragset. Photography: Anders Sune Berg

Courtesy the Artists and Victoria Miro, London
© Elmgreen & Dragset.
Photography: Anders Sune Berg

Today Deana Sidney (of LostPastRemembered) sent me this link to an article in the New York Times which explains everything. The artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset have transformed the V&A’s former Textile Galleries into a site-specific, immersive installation.

Courtesy the Artists and Victoria Miro, London © Elmgreen & Dragset. Photography: Anders Sune Berg

Courtesy the Artists and Victoria Miro, London
© Elmgreen & Dragset.
Photography: Anders Sune Berg

Visitors can wander through the grand but slightly disheveled South Kensington apartment of the fictional Norman Swann, an elderly modernist architect. Presumably there is an intentional echo here of Charles Swann, the elderly dandy in Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu.

Courtesy the Artists and Victoria Miro, London © Elmgreen & Dragset. Photography: Anders Sune Berg

Courtesy the Artists and Victoria Miro, London
© Elmgreen & Dragset.
Photography: Anders Sune Berg

Swann’s apartment contains the remains of what appears to be an inherited family collection, as Chinese porcelain, Louis something furniture, ormolu candelabra and Victorian pictures mix with a 1950s Heal’s-style desk and a minimalist kitchen.

Courtesy the Artists and Victoria Miro, London © Elmgreen & Dragset. Photography: Anders Sune Berg

Courtesy the Artists and Victoria Miro, London © Elmgreen & Dragset. Photography: Anders Sune Berg

Was Swann the last of the family line? If he was a visionary modernist architect (‘Building for the masses’ proclaims a framed poster in his office), why did he hang on to his family memorabilia? There are indications that he is now broke and is selling up (hence the apartment being advertised for sale). Is this the end for him, or will he have a Proustian moment of temps retrouvé?

Courtesy the Artists and Victoria Miro, London © Elmgreen & Dragset. Photography: Anders Sune Berg

Courtesy the Artists and Victoria Miro, London
© Elmgreen & Dragset.
Photography: Anders Sune Berg

I am writing this without as yet having seen the installation, which I could justify by referring to Proust’s insight that what is imagined is so much more enchanting than what is experienced. But in fact I do hope to visit du côté de chez Swann very soon.

7 Responses to “Du côté de chez Swann”

  1. deana Says:

    Marvelous to see more of the exhibit. I wish I could see it in person. Simply marvelous idea of objects as silent storytellers. Bravo to the lads for doing it. I love the Swann connection too… a great sense of humor in all…

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Indeed, and thanks again for the the link.

  3. visitinghousesandgardens Says:

    Wow. Going to go this weekend

  4. columnist Says:

    What a stunning space, which would be ideal as a pied-a-terre in London! The proportions of the rooms are quite breathtaking.

  5. visitinghousesandgardens Says:

    I went this evening (Friday night late = no children) armed with a camera but sadly photography isn’t allowed. I did, however, read the whole play that goes with the installation so armed with your v&a pics I might do a post. Thanks for the great tip off. Robin

  6. decoration Montpellier Says:

    the architecture and the decoration are impressionnant, majestuous corridor, great architect

  7. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    I think these galleries were designed by Aston Webb in the late nineteenth century.

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