I was recently lucky enough to visit the Alice in Wonderland exhibition in the Victoria and Albert Museum, Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser, for the second time. It is a magical experience that transports you into not only the book and movie, but the time that Lewis Caroll wrote it, and the world that he formed in his mind. 


The exhibition explores different aspects of Alice in Wonderland, beginning with how the original story was formed in the Victorian Era. The first room has a collection of original illustrations by John Sir Tenniel, and even the manuscript of the novel by Caroll, allowing you an insight into how this incredible fantasy was born. A glass display cabinet in the centre holds Victorian artefacts, and dotted around the room are portraits of significant people to Caroll, and even people that inspired parts of the story. 


As you continue through, you begin to enter the real immersive experience. Large scale doors hang from the ceiling, and draped along the walls, transporting you tumbling down the rabbit hole. Added projections of the original illustrations mix the now modern idea of Alice, bringing all art together. This continues through the exhibition, with towering projections of Alice’s tears, the Cheshire Cat and even the Caterpillar who was famously voiced by Alan Rickman in the Tim Burton adaptations. 


Throughout the exhibition, movie adaptations are referenced, the first even dating back to 1903. It shows clips of each, from Disney’s 1951 hallucinogenic classic, to the black and white silent original stories. Everything that was ever inspired by Alice and Wonderland, is found here in the V&A. 

Some highlights include posters from each adaptation, fashion from Vivenne Westwood and Iris van Herpen, a large scale remake of the Mad Hatters Tea Party and even Lewis Carroll’s handwritten manuscript. 


The incredible large sets and digital projections mentioned were designed by Tom Piper, the award winning theatre and set designer who has worked with the V&A before for previous exhibitions. A huge amount of work went into these sets, and a lot of projection mapping, which allows visitors to feel the ambience and childhood escapism. Both Kate Bailey and Kristjana S. Williams, who were the curator and artist for the exhibition, captured the exploration that Alice in Wonderland itself explores. The need for adventure, and the curiosity that Alice feels is perfectly thrusted upon visitors when entering the exhibition.


Another amazing addition to the exhibition is the “curious game of crochet”, a virtual headset experience that allows you to become Alice and see the reimagined garden. Kristjana S. Williams transforms the original flat illustrations, into this colourful 3D psychedelic world. She took many inspirations on her journey to what the exhibition is now, including Alexander McQueen, the bright colours of Disney and American artist Eyvind Earl. She said, whilst talking to Forbes, “Working on this project I felt like a child faced with the world’s biggest ‘pick and mix’ sweetie counter, with many ‘delights’ to work with”


The dazzling room full of Alice inspired fashion, brings a huge audience of fashion lovers to the exhibition, including myself. From Thome Browne, to Viktor & Rolf, to even real costumes from the 2011 Royal Ballet production of Christopher Wheeldon’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the exhibition never fails to leave jaws dropping in awe. 


A personal favourite part of the exhibition is the inclusion of Tim Walkers 45th edition of The Pirelli Calender. He created a new and different angle to Caroll’s original story, but still paid omage. He inlisted a cast of influential actors, models, activists and musicians, who created an all black cast for the first time since the 1987 Pirelli Calendar. Some of these including, Naomi Campbell, RuPaul, Whoopi Goldberg, Adut Akech, Lil Yachty and Lupita Nyong’o. I found the photographs and overall idea of this concept inspiring, and incredibly important for the new age of Alice fans. This new generation deserve to see and resonate with Alice and her story, within themselves. Seeing a black Alice today means children of all races are able to see the world they live in, and the experiences they face in the media they consume. They are able to embrace this new diverse, and beautiful world that they contribute to. 


My journey down the rabbit hole, and through the flourishing  exhibition was beautiful and imaginative. It brought me back to my childhood, and captured the essence of Alice in Wonderland in every sense. It was theatrical, and simplistic. A juxtaposition you can only find at the V&A.