LDF 2015 – Top 5 Design Hotspots at the V&A

Five FizzPicks from the V&A for London Design Festival...

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

We're always happy to ramble around amazing art and design hub the Victoria and Albert Museum, but the London Design Festival provides the perfect excuse to head to this evocative grande dame in the Brompton Design District. A clutch of ten cutting-edge installations is upping the wow factor at the V&A until this Sunday 27 September, and there's even a curated festival shop for snapping up sharp designs such as graphic London art prints by Alfred & Wilde or limited-edition Mast Brothers chocolate bars in jaunty LDF red, white and black. To make the most of this weekend, here are our top five FizzPicks at the V&A...

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Zotem by Kim Thomé with Swarovski
If aliens had landed in the V&A and wanted to send us a message of peace, they could do well to imitate 'Zotem', a towering 18-metre-tall monolith teaming abstract shapes with rainbow colours. By Norwegian-born, London designer Kim Thomé in partnership with Austrian crystal company Swarovski, the installation rises from the museum's Grand Entrance to the Ceramics Gallery on the sixth floor, embedded on both sides with more than 600 custom-made crystals. Scaled up to 2.5 times their usual size, they're displayed in a grid against matt-black aluminium, backed by a continuously looping roll of vividly printed mesh. The result is dynamic colour when light catches the crystals, like some kind of zany god. The piece looks digital but is actually old-school analogue, its name a hybrid of 'totem' and 'zoetrope' in reference to a 19th-century animation device. Thomé wants to draw visitors' eyes up to the glam, oft-ignored galleries overhead, helping them to discover the V&A's interiors afresh. As the Instagram hashtag goes #lookup.
kimthome.com; swarovskigroup.com

Barnaby Barford: The Tower of Babel
Someone else getting on a high is London artist/designer Barnaby Barford, known for his cheeky ceramic figurines that blend tradition with modern wit. For the V&A he has built The Tower of Babel from ceramic shops modelled on individual high-street stores in London. There's a sense of fun but also nostalgic sadness to this six-metre-high sculpture, as many of the 3,000 bone china shops, photographed by the artist and recreated in detail, represent the kinds of stores dying off in the real estate-crazed, consumerist capital. At the top of the pile you'll spy luxe emporiums and bling boutiques; at the bottom, derelict premises down on their luck. Don't worry, though, you can rescue them! All the shops are for sale during the exhibition, blurring the boundaries between art, design and commerce, with prices rising for posher properties. C'est la vie.
barnabybarford.co.uk

Mise-en-abyme by Laetitia de Allegri and Matteo Fogale with Johnson Tiles
A colourful and immersive installation spanning the bridge over the V&A's Medieval and Renaissance galleries, Mise-en-abyme was dreamed up by London-based duo Laetitia de Allegri from Switzerland and Uruguayan Matteo Fogale. A landscape of overlapping, semi-transparent shapes, inspired by the Renaissance discovery of one-point perspective, it plays with viewers' sense of distance. The grout lines of the floor tiles, by Johnson Tiles, and their gradated custom-colours create an illusion of exaggerated depth, and of space closing in and opening out. As you walk through, the portals in the acrylic panels get smaller in a literal experience of perspective. The bright colours riff on the museum's historic stained glass, while the light, floaty feel contrasts with the heavy marble in the surrounding galleries. The title is French for 'placed into abyss', but this is one abyss we're happy to plumb.
laetitiadeallegri.com; matteofogale.com

The Cloakroom by Faye Toogood with Kvadrat
At the Fizz we don't need an excuse to sashay around in a marvellous coat, but thanks to The Cloakroom by Brit designer Faye Toogood we can explore the V&A in style. At Room 55, visitors can don one of 150 navigational Toogood coats, crafted from high-tech, compressed foam textile 'Highfield' by Kvadrat, hand-treated so each is unique. Each coat comes with a sewn-in map guiding you on a tour of ten sculptural Toogood garment installations dotted around the V&A, inspired by her favourite pieces from a wood-panelled chamber to a suit of armour. The garments are formed from non-traditional clothing materials, including fibreglass, wood and metal, breaking down the barriers between fashion and design. Although Toogood is known for her furniture (see her graphic interior The Drawing Room at Somerset House for LDF15), she also crafts garments with her pattern cutter sister Erica, and the V&A coats are based on her voluminous early Oil Rigger design. 'I want to take people on a journey of discovery through the depths of the Museum,' says Toogood. The Sartorialist would approve!
fayetoogood.com

Curiosity Cloud by mischer'traxler with Perrier-Jouët and Lobmeyr
Celebrating our interactions with transient nature and the Art Deco movement's love affair with insect motifs, 'Curiosity Cloud' is a bewitching kinetic installation by Austrian duo mischer'traxler in collaboration with French champagne house Perrier-Jouët. Set in the Norfolk House Music Room, it comprises 250 mouth-blown glass globes in three sizes by Viennese glass company Lobmeyr. Each globe contains a single hand-fabricated insect, printed onto laser-cut foil and hand-embroidered, representing 25 different species from common to newly discovered and endangered. From a distance they seem calm, but as visitors approach the softly lit installation they react via motion sensors, fluttering more intensely in their glass bulbs. The designers discuss the project here. If you miss it in London, why not catch it later in Champagne?
mischertraxler.com

London Design Festival Shop
Need to refuel? You can't beat the Mast Brothers limited edition chocolate bars, specially created for LDF15 and sold at the pop-up London Design Festival Shop at the V&A, designed by LORIS&LIVIA in baby-blue Corian. They're too gorgeous to eat. Almost...

10-17. London Design Festival is at the V&A, Cromwell Road, South Kensington, London SW7 until Sunday 27 September 2015. Open 10am-5.45pm; vam.ac.uk  londondesignfestival.com