Interesting shades of luxury, it may be suggested as – opulence or splendor – a state of great comfort, especially involving great expense; indulgence or frill – an inessential, desirable item particularly expensive or intricate to obtain; joy or delight – a genuine pleasure obtained only rarely. Presuming luxury has a long delicate history. “Essentially, the question of luxury is a personal one,” as said by Jana Scholze, V&A curator of Contemporary Furniture, co-curator of the exhibition, What is Luxury?
What is Luxury? is the third in a series of joint V&A and Crafts Council, following Out of the Ordinary in 2007 and The Power of Making in 2011. It aims to expand understandings of luxury by presenting exceptional examples of contemporary design and craftsmanship alongside conceptual projects. As an alternative, of attempting to provide a definition of luxury, the idea is to highlight and inquire the interpretations of luxury. Over 100 objects address how luxury is made and understood in a physical, conceptual and cultural capacity. The exhibition is intended to be divided into four consecutive sections: Creating Luxury, A Space for Time, A Future for Luxury, and What is Your Luxury?
The opening section of the exhibition considers objects defined by the fineness of their design and craftsmanship. On display are objects, including the Space Travellers’ Watch, a handcrafted mechanical timepiece by renowned British watchmaker George Daniels, a laser-cut haute couture gown 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. Time Elapsed, a central spirograph designed by Philippe Malouin for glassware company Lobmeyr which rotates to draw patterns made of sand.
Living in a 21st–century, people may be gradually starting to value time and space more. The exhibition intends to feature Time for Yourself, a playful toolkit may feature a watch without a dial and a compass which spins to random coordinates. The design tries to invite visitors to engage and contemplate, how the availability of time and space, and quality of time spent, may be seen as luxuries in their own right.
The exhibition also may by presenting a range of designs and arts exploring the relationship between luxury and materials. Hair Highway by Studio Swine’s sets human hair in resin to create decorative pieces of furniture and accessories, creating objects that are reminiscent of precious materials such as horn or tortoiseshell, however made from one of the few natural resources which increases along with the world’s population. Also, on display may be a set of vessels by Unknown Fields Division made from mud collected on a recent expedition to the Rare Earth Elements’ mines in Inner Mongolia.
With a further attempt to leave the visitor filled with wonder, speculating about the future. The aim is to rethink how luxury may be defined in future? According to American artist Gabriel Barcia-Colombo’s, ownership of one’s own DNA may become a luxury in the future, as displayed in his DNA Vending Machine containing pre-packaged DNA samples.
The final section of the exhibition, What is Your Luxury? – is a movement from traditional explanations of luxury to conceptual projects. “The project ‘The Last Man’s Seat’ shows the efforts of a single individual building and decorating one of the most essential design object(s): a seat, while embarking on a journey of making, adapting, improving, erasing and rebuilding in an attempt to achieve the optimal seat.” as quoted by Leanne Wierzba, co-curator of the exhibition. The idea is to prompt visitors to consider what luxury means and how it relates to lives.
What is Luxury?, a V&A and Crafts Council exhibition, sponsored by Northacre, is at the V&A from 25th April – 27th September 2015, find more information about the exhibition here.
How has indulging designs assisted in realising the individual definition of luxury?