Cars: Accelerating the Modern World at the V&A

A is for Automobiles: Cars: godsend or curse? That’s the basic gist of the V&A’s new exhibition dedicated to old bangers (and, of course, they are both).  Do we care? Well, as someone with a fashion background who’s never so much as handled a gear stick in my life, the idea of this exhibition was never going to thrill me in a year where the museum has also dedicated major shows to the work of Mary Quant, Christian Dior and Tim Walker. So why did we bother? Well, partly because it’s the V&A and their exhibitions are generally always worth a punt – I mean I can’t remember ever coming out of anything they’ve put on going “well that was shit” – and partly because the giant red board-game car that’s currently threatening to fall from the roof of the Sainsbury Gallery (where the exhibition is located) looks so awesome I felt compelled to investigate.

B is for Big Screens: In terms of interactivity this probably isn’t the most child-friendly exhibition in the world, but our three-year-olds were perfectly happy pottering around in it and we lasted just over an hour before the need for snacks and toilets forced our exit. One of the main draws here were the two giant screens – one is an IMAX-style wraparound situation showing a drive around London from the driver’s perspective and the other offers a 1:1 scale look inside a car factory – though neither of these thrilled the toddlers quite like the car-crash simulation game (not interactive – you just watch the cars crashing in a variety of imaginative but nonetheless terrifying ways) or Graham, the frighteningly realistic life-size model depicting what a human man might look like if we evolved to withstand car crashes, complete with airbag multiboobs, sunken facial features and hoof-feet (absolute babe).

C is for Clever Touches: I’m not generally the sort of person who says things like “ooo, that’s a nice car”, unless it’s a Nissan Figaro because they are fit, but to be fair this exhibition has a killer car game. I’m not going to embarrass myself by trying to correctly name car makes and models but I will tell you there was a really nice orangey red one, a cute little bubble one and one that looked like a rocket that might have had something to do with Thunderbirds but probably didn’t. The set design is also just really sexy, with (obviously non-functional) pastel-hued petrol pumps built into the sides of display stands, really nice patterned areas for the cars to sit on, and obviously the aforementioned board-game car outside. A lot of time and money has clearly gone into this exhibition, and it shows.

Tickets: £18 without donation; kids go free.

Verdict: I have basically zero interest in cars but I still thought this was great. 4/5

Until 19th April 2020

Babu and Sprog frolic in the V&A Exhibition Road courtyard.