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The Smithsonian’s board of regents on Monday unanimously approved a plan to collaborate with the Victoria and Albert Museum to present exhibitions in a space under development in East London.
Secretary of the Smithsonian David J. Skorton said he would travel to London next month for an event hosted by London Mayor Sadiq Khan announcing details of the Cultural and Education District at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, site of the 2012 Summer Olympics.
The agreement between the two museums, which took almost two years to finalize, will lead to joint exhibitions in the V&A’s new facility. The V&A is the world’s largest museum of decorative arts and design.
“We’ll be bunking in with the Victoria and Albert Museum,” Skorton said after Monday’s meeting of the board of regents at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. “We’ve developed a terrific rapport with the museum and those who will be handling content.”
The Smithsonian first announced in early 2015 that it would occupy a stand-alone facility in the cultural district, joining such luminaries as the V&A and Sadler’s Wells Theatre as major players in the redevelopment plan. That decision predated Skorton’s tenure as Smithsonian secretary.
In June 2016, Skorton and the board announced a scaled-back plan to work with the Victoria and Albert rather than establish a stand-alone space. He said the plan approved Monday was a slightly refined version of that idea.
The Smithsonian’s collaboration with the V&A will include two types of programs, Skorton said. “Some programs we will develop together, and they will be largest piece of the collaboration, and secondly, periodically we will have our own exhibitions in temporary spaces,” he said. The galleries will be about 8,000 and 10,000 square feet, according to the Smithsonian. The institution has not assigned a fundraiser to the effort. Julian Raby, the former director of the Freer/Sackler, and Thomas Wide, a former guest curator at the Sackler, are part-time consultants.
University College London and the University of the Arts London are other partners in the effort to remake the former Olympic site, Skorton said.
The projected opening of the cultural district is 2022.