• Home
  • News
  • Culture
  • Alice In Wonderland to be the focus of new V&A exhibition

Alice In Wonderland to be the focus of new V&A exhibition

By Danielle Wightman-Stone

2 Dec 2019


London’s V&A has announced that its landmark exhibition for 2020 will be ‘Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser’ celebrating the fantastical and imaginative Alice In Wonderland story with more than 300 objects spanning film, performance, fashion, art, music and photography, including fashion from Iris van Herpen and Viktor and Rolf.

Opening on June 27, 2020, the exhibition will literally take visitors down through a rabbit hole into the subterranean Sainsbury Gallery to chart Lewis Carroll’s surreal stories evolution from manuscript to a global phenomenon featuring theatrical sets, large-scale digital projections and immersive environments designed by Tom Piper, the award-winning theatre designer best known for his stage designs for the Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal Opera House as well as his Tower of London poppies installation.

‘Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser’ has been designed to take children and adults on a journey through the enchanting and extraordinary world of Wonderland, through Alice’s eyes, and marks the first museum to fully explore the cultural impact of Alice and her ongoing inspiration for leading creatives, from Salvador Dalí and The Beatles to Little Simz and Thom Browne.

Highlights include Lewis Carroll’s original handwritten manuscript, illustrations by John Tenniel, Ralph Steadman and Disney, Bob Crowley’s towering stage costume for the Queen of Hearts from the Royal Ballet’s 2011 production, fashion from Iris van Herpen and photography from Tim Walker’s celebrated 2018 Pirelli Calendar recreating Wonderland with an all-black cast including RuPaul, Naomi Campbell and Adwoa Aboah.

V&A to open landmark exhibition ‘Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser’ in 2020

The exhibition’s first section, 'Creating Alice’, will trace Alice in Wonderland’s origins in Victorian Oxford, uncovering the people, the politics and the places that inspired Lewis Carroll, and will also introduce visitors to the ‘real’ Alice and her family. It will also shine a spotlight on the creative partnership between Carroll and John Tenniel featuring their original drawings together as well as their inspirations, including ‘The Ugly Duchess’ portrait by Quinten Massys (1513), which informed the illustrations of the Duchess in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Alice In Wonderland has inspired numerous stage productions and films and ‘Filming Alice’ will look at the creative development of Alice on-screen throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, starting with the earliest film based on the books in 1903, using film clips, designs, animation cels, scripts and costumes, set against a giant smoking caterpillar, the concept art from Walt Disney’s Alice in Wonderland film in 1951, alongside Tim Burton’s 2010 blockbuster adaptation.

Drawing on 1960s surrealism and psychedelia, ‘Reimagining Alice’ will celebrate reinventions of Wonderland through works by Salvador Dalí, Yayoi Kusama, Max Ernst and Peter Blake as well as the music of The Beatles. The museum will highlight this section with a mind-bending visual experience Mad Hatter’s tea party using psychedelic and playful digital projections. It will be followed by an invitation to a game of Flamingo croquet.

‘Staging Alice’ will explore how the books have naturally found a home within dance, music and performance. Bringing past performances to life including concept designs, set models, props and costumes from international productions in Switzerland and Russia alongside the National Theatre’s wonder.land.

The final section, ‘Being Alice’ will explore the modern-day fascination and reinvention of Alice in Wonderland across art, science and popular culture and include Tim Walker, Annie Leibovitz, Gwen Stefani and P Diddy, as well as fashion collections from Iris van Herpen and Viktor and Rolf.

The exhibition will close with a newly commissioned ‘through the looking glass-inspired’ digital art installation, meaning that visitors will arrive descending down into the rabbit hole and leave through the looking glass.

Kate Bailey, senior curator of Theatre and Performance at the V&A, said in a statement: “With our world-class collections of art, design and performance and founding mission to inspire the next generation, the V&A is the perfect place for an exhibition on the cultural impact of Alice in Wonderland across artistic disciplines.

“Alice encourages us all to question, to learn, to explore, and to dream – discovering why she’s an endless source of inspiration for some of the world’s most creative minds has been an extraordinary adventure. We look forward to welcoming visitors of all ages into Alice’s magical and mind-bending Wonderland, to imagine their own world on the other side of the Looking Glass.”

The exhibition is the second V&A exhibition for adults and children, following on from Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic (2017-2018).

‘Alice: Curiouser And Curiouser’ will run from June 27 next year to January 10, 2021 at the V&A in London.

Images: courtesy of the V&A

Main image - Alice at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, Illustration for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by John Tenniel, 1865 (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Fashion image - Viktor&Rolf Haute Couture autumn/winter 2016 – Vagabonds. Photo credit Team Peter Stigter

Victoria and Albert
Viktor and Rolf