What Is Luxury? at the V&A
Occupying three dark, small rooms on the ground floor of the V&A, the exhibition creates a certain sense of luxury in itself. The confined space, surrounded by black walls and full of shiny objects, creates a tranquil atmosphere of exclusivity that allows the viewer to be fully absorbed by the idea of luxury. It is this idea, ultimately different to everyone, that is at the heart of the exhibition.
The differences in understanding what luxury stands for are fully reflected upon as each of the three rooms brings a new definition to the term. At a first glance, the objects on show do not have much in common either – there is a gorgeous ecclesiastical crown, covered in diamonds, emeralds and rubies, residing in the same room as a glass jellyfish installation and a porcelain tea cup connoisseur set from the 17th century. Yet, all those objects do share a common bond – they are all defined as “luxurious” due to the excellence of their design and craftsmanship. While for some The Golden Fleece Headpiece would be the ultimate epitome of luxury with its 22-carat gold, others might Five Coloured Luster more lavish, as it boasts layers of raw lacquer paste and fabric applied onto a mould, each layer individually cured and sanded. This is another thing that defines all the objects on show – the precision with which they were created, and the strong attention to detail that turns each and every one of them from regular artefacts of daily life into masterpieces of human craftsmanship.
One of the most notable works on show, and a centrepiece of the exhibition, is a large-scale Spirograph designed by Philippe Malouin, which rotates to draw patterns made of sand. Time Elapsed may be the focus, but it’s not the only object that draws attention on the idea of time – this is essentially one of the main themes of What Is Luxury? as the process of creating all those stunning works is above all time-intensive. In the end, it is time that is the greatest luxury.
Photos: Erol Birsen
What Is Luxury? is at the Victoria and Albert Museum funtil 27th September 2015, for further information visit here.