Gilbert collection returns to the V&A with one notable absence

Gilbert collection returns to the V&A with one notable absence

Falcon cup (around 1600) from the Gilbert collection (Photo: © Victoria & Albert Museum)

The Gilbert collection reopened in refurbished galleries at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London on 15 November. The collection of around 1,200 decorative art objects was donated to the UK in 1996 by the late British-born, Los Angeles-based property tycoon Arthur Gilbert and his first wife Rosalinde. 

The works were once promised to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where Gilbert was a trustee, but negotiations broke down over the amount of space the collection would receive. Secured for the UK by Jacob Rothschild, the former chairman of the Heritage Lottery Fund, the gift became the catalyst for his campaign to restore Somerset House. The collection was on view there for eight years, until it was loaned to the V&A in 2008.  

After careful conservation, around 500 items—including a falcon-shaped cup made from a gilded coconut shell and gates commissioned for a monastery by Catherine the Great—are on display in four reinstalled galleries. The spaces were closed in 2014 for work on the museum’s expansion. 

There is one notable absence: a life-sized waxwork tableau of Arthur Gilbert in his Beverly Hills office, commissioned by his second wife, Marjorie. V&A curators plan to unveil the surreal replica in 2018.

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