What is Luxury? aims to interrogate and expand understandings of luxury by presenting exceptional examples of contemporary design and craftsmanship alongside conceptual projects which interrogate fundamental ideas of luxury, its production and future. From a diamond made from roadkill to a vending machine stocked with DNA, a golden crown for ecclesiastical use to traditional military tailoring, over 100 objects address how luxury is made and understood in a physical, conceptual and cultural capacity.
The opening section of the exhibition considers objects defined as luxurious by the excellence of their design and craftsmanship. On display are objects which celebrate the investment of time and application of skill in the process of making, including the Space Travellers’ Watch, an entirely handcrafted mechanical timepiece by renowned British watchmaker George Daniels, a laser-cut haute couture dress by fashion designer Iris van Herpen, a chandelier by Studio Drift featuring real dandelion seeds applied by hand to LED lights, a Hermès Talaris saddle which combines traditional leather craftsmanship with a technologically innovative structure, and the Bubble Bath necklace by Nora Fok, made from more than 1000 hand-knitted nylon bubbles.
What is Luxury? also considers time and space as fundamental aspects constituting luxury, especially within a 21st-century urban context. Works including Time for Yourself, a playful toolkit for misdirection which features a watch with no dial and a compass which spins to random co- ordinates, invite visitors to contemplate the idea of getting lost and their relationship to the luxuries of space and time.
What is Luxury? provokes thinking and debate through fictional scenarios that consider issues like privacy, resources and access that could determine future ideas of luxury. American artist Gabriel Barcia-Colombo’s DNA Vending Machine contains pre-packaged DNA samples and invites visitors to consider our increasing access to biotechnology and how privacy and ownership of one’s own DNA may become a luxury in the future.
Visiting research fellow Leanne Wierzba, co-curator of the exhibition, says:
What is Luxury? will reveal the stories and craftsmanship behind the exquisite and intriguing objects on display and demonstrate the precision, time and application of skills invested to produce them.’ V&A curator of Contemporary Furniture Jana Scholze and co-curator of What is Luxury?, adds, ‘As its title suggests, the exhibition questions the very idea of luxury today. It challenges common interpretations of luxury, invites close examination of luxury production and extends ideas of what luxury can be. Essentially, the question of luxury is a personal one.
Images Courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum, London