The Victoria & Albert museum has over 50 departments and 700 staff members. When I started working in the Visitor Experience department in 2013. I was overwhelmed by the enormity of it all; the old, secret basement tunnels, its vast number of galleries and the amount of staff circulating and emerging from every obscure door the galleries tend to hide. It was a lot to get to know and so much to be part of.
I started as a Gallery Assistant just after the last edition of the Staff Art Exhibition (VAMALGAM 6). The staff canteen wall was full of all these different and amazing artworks. Talents, hidden within the museum offices and locker rooms.
I was annoyed that I had just missed the show submissions and was looking forward to the following year, when I could be part of it.
The New Year came but no new edition of the show was advertised. I was really disappointed. I wanted to find out who was responsible for it, who I needed to speak to, who I had to convince the exhibition needed to happen again.
By then it was 2014 and a number of changes had occurred in my life that year. I was being promoted to a Visitor Experience Supervisor in time for the preparations for the opening of Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty exhibition. It was huge! Both events had such an impact in my life…
But, to understand how I came to be involved in the VAMALGAM 7 and why these two events had such a big impact on me, we first have to go back a little bit further and tell a brief story.
In 2006 I was finishing my Master degree in Uni, I was living in Rio de Janeiro, had a great job in one of the most prestigious contemporary art museums in Brazil and, I was very much in love. My girlfriend at the time dropped a small bombshell, saying she would have to go to New Zealand for 7 months. ‘Everything will be fine’ – she said. ‘Nothing will change’. I believed her, partially because I was just super naïve, partially because that’s what people do when they’re in love, they believe in happy outcomes, in impossible things.
7 months later she was still there, and with little or no plans to come back. Regardless, we were still ‘together’. I say together, but I must emphasise how long-distance relationships really just don’t work, then again… I was still in love with her so I was convinced we could make it happen.
So when she called me to say it was over, I found it hard to accept. In fact, I didn’t accept it at all. Consequently, in the course of that same month, I had put all my little (but precious) belongings up for sale and bought a one-way ticket to Auckland, New Zealand. If she wanted to break up with me, she would have to do it in my face… (How mature).
I arrived in Auckland, settled in my 12 bunk-bed room, managed to mumble a few words in English with a few hostel soon-to-be-friends and waited. The next day, my girlfriend, or ex, depends how you see it, came to see me.
No regrets and demonstrations of love, no now-that-I-see-you-I-know-that-I-really-love-you type situation. She just, dumped me.
I was on the other side of the world, the money I had was pretty much the remains of all that I had in life, I spoke very little English… (Ok, to make clear, we are talking about: help, yes, no, where’s the toilet? – essential, emergency words only). I had left my family, my friends, the job that I thought would make my career and also had to deal with the natural effects of a not-so-typical heartbreak.
Just settling in for a hard time ahead, I decided to make myself slightly more ‘comfortable’ by changing from a 12 bunk bed to a reasonable 6 bunk bed room. In that new room, I met a person that would change my life forever (again). I fell in love and we got married in New Zealand roughly 2 years later.
There, now that you know this story, we can go back to 2015 when, most say inevitably, this same marriage, had started crumbling down.