V&A and Smithsonian to Open Joint Space in London

The Smithsonian has scrapped plans to open its own London outpost.

The Smithsonian and the Victoria & Albert Museum will collaborate to stage joint exhibitions at the Olympic park in east London, after the American museum and research institute axed plans to open an independent exhibition space in the British capital.

According to a joint statement, the institutions “have agreed to develop, over the course of this year, a plan for a jointly organized permanent gallery space as a key part of V&A East.”

Originally the Smithsonian was supposed to occupy its own space on the site, but now it will partner with the London institution within its 193,750 square feet complex, opposite the Olympic Aquatics Center. The deal also means that part of the Smithsonian’s enormous 138 million-item collection will be displayed in the British capital.

London’s “Olympicopolis,” the former Olympic Park, will encompass the V&A/Smithsonian outpost, the new Sadler’s Wells theater, a new campus for the London University of the Arts’ London College of Fashion, and a new design and experimental engineering research facility for University College London.


Dr. David J. Skorton. Photo John Gibbons, courtesy Smithsonian.

“It would be a collaboration with the V&A, giving both of us opportunities to engage with diverse audiences in innovative ways,” Smithsonian secretary David Skorton said in the statement. “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,” he added.

Skorton stressed that the terms of the deal state that this will be a partnership between the two institutions and “not […] a Smithsonian outpost in London.”

“Working very closely with the Smithsonian, as well as other partners around the Olympic Park, is one of the key reasons the V&A is committed to developing a new museum, and this proposed collaboration represents an exciting opportunity to explore synergies between two world-class institutions and their collections and knowledge,” Tim Reeve, V&A’s deputy director and CEO, said in the statement.

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