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Horst: Photographer of Style

Horst Round the Clock

Horst: Round the Clock, New York, 1987. © Condé Nast/Horst Estate

I went along to the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) last weekend to see Horst: The Photography of Style exhibition, on until 4 January 2015.

Rather fabulous it was too.

The V&A have set up a great intro to the exhibition on their ‘About the Exhibition‘ page, starting with:

Horst P. Horst (1906-99) created images that transcend fashion and time. He was a master of light, composition and atmospheric illusion, who conjured a world of sensual sophistication. In an extraordinary sixty-year career, his photographs graced the pages of Vogue and House and Garden under the one-word photographic byline ‘Horst’. He ranks alongside Irving Penn and Richard Avedon as one of the pre-eminent fashion and portrait photographers of the 20th century …

The exhibition covers the main areas described in the intro: Haute Couture, Surrealism, Stage and Screen, Travel, Patterns from Nature, The Studio, Fashion in Colour, Living in Style, Nudes and Platinum representing distinctions between the professional and personal as well as developments in technique and style over the long period of Horst’s life.

I really enjoyed the exhibition although, from a wheelchair user’s perspective, some elements of the curation could have been improved and, as ever, the sheer volume of people makes obstacle negotiation a little tricky in some areas.

The people issue is a given at almost all exhibitions – I get that it’s a good thing for the exhibitions to be popular – and I do appreciate that numbers are controlled by ticketing times.  I do my best to go at what I hope will be less busy times – being late or mid-week usually.

My issues with curation for wheelchair users are, again, not V&A specific but tend to apply to most exhibitions.  In summary, my wheeling difficulties are in the areas of:

  • the placing of items at a high standing height level, in particular with the grouping of small photographs,
  • using narrow bays and corridors where it is tricky for wheelchairs to turn, or even occupy, with anyone else about,
  • narrative placed high and in small writing that is impossible to read from low down, and,
  • portfolio’s, magazines, letters and other documents laid flat in cases that are too high for a wheelchair user to see into and have no space for us to manoeuvre around.

For the latter two points, some galleries use digital exhibition guides or even Apps now which are just fab for the nooks and crannies wheelies can’t get to but I didn’t see, nor was I offered access to, either of these at the V&A. so, maybe, they’ve a trick to learn there.

General access to the V&A is really good, from the easy parking and unloading in Exhibition Road, long ramps to the entrance and interior ramps via the shop inside. Even a wheelchair-wimp like me had no trouble getting in, out and across the road to a decent coffee shop near South Ken afterwards.

Overall, it was an easy wheeling’ experience, a brilliant exhibition and a pleasure to recommend to any other art, fashion, photography lovers.

Horst: Photographer of Style at the V&A to 4 January 2015.

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