A trip to the Fan Museum


Even after having lived on the outskirts of London my entire life, as venues open and close, there will always be something new to discover. I recently made my first trip to the Fan Museum in Greenwich, which, despite opening two years before I was born, had alluded me until now.

The fan museum is small, sweet, quaint and petite. From the outside it does not have the appearance of a museum at all. However, its door handles that are adorned with fans hint at the content of the building. When I say that the fan motif is everywhere, I mean it. Even the bathroom, which really was very impressive, has been covered with them, even the soap was fan-shaped. I could see that I wasn’t the only fan (pun intended) as an award had been hung proudly on the mirror. I didn’t know bathroom awards existed until now, but trust me when I say; the Fan Museum definitely deserved it.

Moving away from lavatory decoration to the museum’s collection that tells the story of the origins and evolution of the fan throughout history. Though small, this is well displayed across two rooms on the ground floor of the museum. This begins with a series of fan leaves that have been taken and unfolded from their original supports. So intricate are these fans that one would be forgiven for mistaking them for miniature or small-scale oil paintings. In this first room the status associated with the fan is displayed with many fans being adorned with decorations of royal courts from all over Europe as well as other mythical and historical events.

The following room concentrated on the materials that fans have been constructed out of throughout time with fans made out of ivory, tortoiseshell and my favourite, mother of pearl. These are displayed adjacent to fans from all over the world from the orient to the amazon. The viewer leaves this room after being confronted by a cheeky nod to modern fans with the inclusion of a dyson fan.

Upstairs is space for temporary exhibitions, which currently focuses on the history of fans and advertising with the inclusion of fans made out of beer bottles.

This hidden treasure in Greenwich is well worth a visit. I am definitely a fan!

Seduced: Fans & The Art of Advertising is on display at The Fan Museum until 28 September

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Lizzy Vartanian Collier is a London-based writer with a special interest in contemporary Middle Eastern Art. She has a BA in Art History and an MA in Contemporary Art and Art Theory of Asia and Africa from the School of Oriental and African Studies. She runs the Gallery Girl blog and also writes for After Nyne, Ibraaz and Reorient.

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