London’s Victoria and Albert Museum has announced that it will overhaul its Baroque and Rococo galleries to let in more light and better install 1,100 gems from its collection — including items designed for Marie Antoinette, Catherine the Great and Napoleon.
In a statement, the museum said the new galleries would demonstrate how “Europeans systematically explored, exploited and collected resources from Africa, Asia and the Americas as part of an increasingly global cultural market.” The architecture firm ZMMA, based in London, will carry out the renovation, which is expected to be completed in December and cost $20.4 million, or roughly 12.5 million pounds.
After the renovation of its Medieval and Renaissance galleries, which re-opened in 2009, the overhaul of the Europe 1600-1800 galleries comes as part of a vast transformation of the museum called FuturePlan. The museum has raised $272 million, or about 166 million pounds, to pay for the renovation from a combination of private donors and grants from Britain’s Heritage Lottery Fund.
Martin Roth, the director of the museum said the new galleries were “a major development” in the museum’s program. “At a time when roles and relationships within Europe and the world are under scrutiny, it is interesting to explore the objects, makers and patrons of a period that was so influential upon the habits and lifestyle of Europe today,” he added. Since the museum made its admission free in 2001, except for special exhibitions, the number of visitors has tripled and it hit a record of 3.3 million in 2013.