Lonely Planet Writer

Smithsonian to join forces with the V&A in permanent London base

Washington DC’s Smithsonian Institute plans to team up with London’s Victoria and Albert Museum to co-curate an exhibition space in the British capital.

London's V&A to team up with Washington's Smithsonian.
London’s V&A to team up with Washington’s Smithsonian. Image by Getty Images

This project marks the first time the 170-year-old American institution will establish a permanent presence outside the United States. The Smithsonian announced on Monday that it will jointly curate exhibitions with the V&A in a 10,000 square-foot gallery space inside the V&A East, a new building currently under development in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in East London.

Speaking with the Wall Street Journal, Albert Horvath, Under Secretary for Finance and Administration at the Smithsonian, said that details for the exhibits have yet to be finalised. However, the gallery will likely hold both permanent and temporary shows and will cover a broad range of subjects, from art and history to culture and science.

Smithsonian Castle, Washington, DC.
Smithsonian Castle, Washington, DC. Image by Robert Lyle Bolton / CC BY 2.0

Global art news source, artnet News, have speculated that the partnership may bring part of the Smithsonian’s 138 million-item collection to the UK. According to a joint statement, the deal aims to foster collaboration between the two cultural institutions. Curators from both the V&A and the Smithsonian will work together to build exhibitions within the space. “It would be a collaboration with the V&A, giving both of us opportunities to engage with diverse audiences in innovative ways,” said Smithsonian secretary David Skorton.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Washington DC.
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Washington DC. Image by Getty Images

“What we learn through this collaboration will enable us to better tell our stories not only in London, but in the United States and around the world.” The 20,000-square-foot V&A East building, and the Smithsonian space inside it, will open in 2021. Keeping with the Smithsonian mandate to make learning available to all, admission to the permanent exhibitions will be completely free.