What Is Luxury? The V&A Has Some Ideas
Londonist Rating: ★★★☆☆
What is luxury? It's a very broad and subjective question that will vary wildly between different individuals; stretching from super yachts to a simple weekend lie-in. The V&A's interpretation is to focus on luxurious objects in everything from fashion to diamonds in this collection of items ranging from the elegant to the downright impractical.
This covers ancient artefacts such as an elaborate Indian howdah (elephant carriage) and an ornate Venetian church vestment, to the modern day intricacies of a highly complicated clock design. There are also the impractical and ludicrous items such as a gold coated skimming stone, whose sole purpose can only be as a show of wealth.
So far, so predictable. But the second half of this exhibition gets interesting with artists and manufacturers challenging the social constructs around luxury. Shane Mecklenburger has made synthetic diamonds from unglamorous sources such as road kill and gunpowder, while another display imagines a future where plastic is rare and is hand carved into exclusive furniture. A DNA vending machine and furniture that integrates human hair into its manufacture round out an entertaining end to the display.
This small exhibition does offer some insight into the concept of luxury, but we wish it had been braver and explored the impact on the environment and the wasteful way in which certain luxury items and lifestyles are made and sustained. As it stands this is a free to visit collection of some impressive items, but it could have been so much more.
What is Luxury? A V&A and Crafts Council exhibition is on at V&A until 27 September, entrance is free. Also still on at V&A are the brilliant Alexander McQueen blockbuster and the diverse All of this belongs to you. While at the V&A make sure to check out the refurbished cast court.
Last Updated 27 April 2015