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Review: 'All Of This Belongs To You' - Civic Urbanism At London's Victoria & Albert Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), named after the Queen and Her Consort, has its foundations in the Great Exhibition of 1851 amidst the wealth, innovation and squalor of the Industrial Revolution. Britain was flooded by prosperity which allowed for the development of major new institutions to collect and exhibit objects of cultural significance or artistic value. The institute’s first director, Henry Cole, declared that it should be “a schoolroom for everyone,” and a democratic approach to its relationship with public life has remained the cornerstone of the V&A. Not only has it always been free of charge but it was also the first to open late hours (made possible by gas lighting), allowing a more comprehensive demographic of visitor.

Their latest exhibition, which opens today, seeks to realign the museum’s vast collection and palatial exhibition spaces in South Kensington with these founding concepts. The interventions of All of This Belongs to You attempt to push the V&A’s position as an extension of London’s civic and cultural built environment to the fore, testing the museum’s ability to act as a 21st century public institution. To do this in London, a city where the notion of public and private is increasingly blurred, has resulted in a sequence of compelling installations which are tied together through their relevance either in subject matter, technique, or topicality.

The Ethics of Dust: Trajan’s Column by Jorge Oteros-Pailos. Image © Peter Kelleher / Victoria & Albert Museum ‘AgBags’ installed on the V&A’s stone façade as part of a work by Natalie Jermijenko. Image © Peter Kelleher / Victoria & Albert Museum Spike studs by Kent Stainless Ltd. that are intended 
to discourage people from sitting or sleeping 
in various spaces in the city. Image © Peter Kelleher / Victoria & Albert Museum MacBook Air casing and components from a computer used by journalists to write editorial about the data leaked to The Guardian newspaper by Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor. Image © The Guardian/ Victoria & Albert Museum