Friday, December 13, 2013

VIP at the V&A...again!

I really do enjoy these corporate VIP events, and I don't think in truth I'll ever get tired of them (or of feeling special). After missing the lecture on Friday, I naturally felt obligated and interested in going when we were all invited, as corporate partners, for a private viewing night of all of the rotating collections/exhibits on Monday. Monday nights are usually kind of ragged affairs, especially after such fun-filled and tiring weekends...but I dragged my ass out there, especially since I wanted to see one of the exhibits in particular.

I had originally invited Two but unfortunately she was having a case of the Mondays and eventually had to cancel. I'd also invited Books and DP Steve, but Books had plans every single day of the week plus we had plans to see each other on the weekend and DP Steve, being the executive VIP that he is in real life (unlike my sometimes-VIP status), had plans to see professional tennis. Salads was the only one who was free and clear and angry enough with work to make it on time. So she met up with me at the appropriate time (more or less) and we made our way to the museum.

It was pretty standard fare for our VIP viewing nights - tasty little things on trays floating around (this time a little more minimal with shrimp chips, fried seaweed crackers, garlic cashews, and honey peanuts) and a cash bar where you could buy inexpensive champagne, wine, beer, and spirits. We nibbled on a few of the snacks but I'd already told Salads there would likely be no food so we'd gotten a vegetarian wrap before going in. My bad. I think it was a better plan anyway; despite the nuts being tasty (and rather aromatic), I think this doesn't actually constitute real food. Not for normal people anyway (I would have been fine).

Anyway, the exhibits we ended up seeing:

Tomorrow: Elmgreen & Dragset

This is the exhibit I wanted to see the most. Basically the artists for this exhibit made sets for an unrealized play that visitors can walk through. The sets are an apartment for a disillusioned architect. There were even actresses in maid costumes that you could interact with. It was rather detailed and complete. Fantastic. You could buy the play as a printed book in the giftshop (I actually didn't see it there when I was perusing, otherwise I would have purchased it). The idea of it is marvelous to me though - artists that both write stories and create entire sets for their idea. Very reminiscent of their Memory Palace exhibit, which I was in love with but no one else seemed to enjoy. This exhibit, likewise, was rather empty.

Here are some photos:

The entire idea of this sits very well with me, though the story was sad. It was about an architect whose family was old money. He lives in the house where he grew up and there are reminders of all the wealth and prestige his family gained over the generations. However now he is broke and all must be auctioned off with the help of one of his students (who he is fond of but would never admit).

Would likely be a great but sad read. Too bad I didn't find the book. Hopefully I'll have another chance to get to the museum before the exhibit closes and buy the book then.


This by far the most crowded exhibit and as you could guess it was overcrowded by...women. Women love to gawk at jewelry. It's just something we've been trained to do. There were some interested men there as well, but the vast majority were definitely women. Talking about how beautiful something was, how they would love to have this or that, or how they would definitely take that (in a joking way). Oh women.

This exhibit was a lot better than I was expecting it to be, actually. It went into how pearls are actually formed and the history behind it, who has the most pearls now (oddly it's Qatar...who would have thought?) and how they're manufactured.

First I'll go over how they're made. I took a picture of the sign and got yelled at for it. So I'm posting it, otherwise it'll have gone to waste:

Pearls, contrary to popular belief, are not made by a grain of sand getting in and irritating a mollusk, causing it to layer pearlescent proteins over it.

They instead, are caused by some sort of parasite coming into the mollusk (I say mollusk because things other than oysters can create fact any kind of mollusk can create pearls, just that bivalves tend to create the most and the most common), such as tapeworms, larvae of various worms and other small creatures of this sort, who then inch their way below the protective mantle of the mollusk's flesh, disrupting the cell layer and creating a pocket of these cells around them (as they've dragged these cells with them during the digging). This pocket then seals the intruder in, eventually dissolves them, and the mollusk's body, similar to ours, responds by covering the intrusive body with calcium and other nutrients, creating a cyst. That cyst is what eventually, over a long period of time, becomes a pearl.

So your pearl, your prized possession, is actually a mollusk's cyst. It is trying to dispel a foreign body from its own. Sometimes it succeeds, sometimes it doesn't. Entire tapeworms have been encased in pearls because of this process. Granted if you cut a pearl open you'll likely not find anything in there anymore because the mollusk's body will have dissolved the original intruder, but technically if you got there early enough in the process, you should.

I joked with Salads how really what we're doing is collecting mollusk tumors. It's a much more realistic way of looking at it. Perhaps likewise we should enamel our own tumors and wear them as jewelry. I know, morbid.

Anyway, the rest of the exhibit was far less scientific and rather went into the historical aspects of pearls. Rising prices with interest in Europe, etc etc. Decadence and the showing of social status with them. How they used to denote lineage of royalty but then more and more rich people got them so it was just about wealth rather than lineage and royalty. Then it's just been continually popularized by our celebrities still wearing them. Ah how the pearl is forever.

Most of our pearls nowadays are manufactured; created by perfected farming techniques. I think this should come as no surprise. The naturally created saltwater pearl is a rarity indeed now, and extremely prized. The techniques for getting these hasn't changed in hundreds of years - people still dive for them (though I imagine they use technology like scuba now, instead of who has the best lung capacity).

We looked at lots of pearl jewelry from that point on. Pretty awesome.

Pearl created by a mollusk that is not a bivalve. Notice it's awesome coloring and patterns.

Part of one of the Qatar collection. There is one single man in Qatar that just collects pearls. There was a photo of him in the exhibit with his pearls. This guy is just all about pearls. It was kind of nuts.

An example of some of the jewelry we saw. Lots of it historical. Gorgeous, and very detailed. I just imagine the time and energy it took to make one of these and it's mind boggling. Yes, I will comment like a normal woman and say, yes, I'd take one of these.

Naturally forming pearls from different types of mollusks. Notice the different colors and patterns. You can kind of see what types of shells they'd likely come from given their texture. Fascinating. Would definitely like to have these too. ;)

After those two exhibits we went to the 1980's fashion exhibit since Salads hadn't seen it before. She was actually a real person in the 80's, unlike me, so she recognized and enjoyed it a lot more than me. However, having grown up in India during the 80's and acknowledging that globalization hadn't been such a big thing back then, she thinks that regional differences would have been much larger and fashion wouldn't have spread as much. So some of the pieces were recognizable while others weren't (e.g. the fashion shown was very London-based, not global). This makes sense. Now perhaps fashion is more global.

We called our night to an end then, since we'd both had big weekends and it was time to go back. Good viewing of new exhibits though. Makes me think I should really take time sometime and see the permanent collections. I imagine they're just as good.

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