‘What is Luxury?’ Victoria and Albert Museum Exhibition

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Should you find yourself in London this summer, whether for business or pleasure, make time to visit London’s most famous gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum.


Until the end of September, the Victoria and Albert Museum are hosting ‘What is Luxury?’, one of their most curious exhibitions yet. The exhibition investigates how luxury is made and the impact it has on the western world.


As well as displaying rare and desirable objects, ‘What is Luxury?’ poses the possibility that changes in culture and human habits have created a less tangible definition of luxury, with desire for space and time stimulating this theory. The exhibition challenges other preconceived notions of value through its diverse collection, and reflects upon the future of luxury in the 21st century.


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Luxury craftsmen take their inspiration from nature, physics and engineering, materials, and complex techniques. ‘What is Luxury?’ states then that really, a luxurious item is not just measured by how long it takes to make, but the skills learnt and the knowledge acquired in order to make it. The collection of luxury objects has fulfils dreams and aspirations, so in a busy and crowded world, are time and personal space becoming luxury items?


Take a look at the stories behind the displays, at one of the Museum’s events or talks happening during the exhibition. Heike Zech, Senior Curator of the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection, is hosting a lunchtime lecture on the 16th of September which explores the history of mankind’s obsession with gold and silver. These precious materials have always been the ultimate signifiers for luxury and wealth, despite the fact that even the most beautiful pieces could be melted down to provide emergency funds. Heike Zech will investigate the different ways this adds value to the masterpieces which have survived using examples from the Gilbert Collection and the ‘What is Luxury? Exhibition.


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One particular highlight of the exhibition is the Golden Fleece headpiece [pictured above]. Inspired by the Greek myth of Jason and the golden fleece, Giovanni Corvaja created a golden headpiece to awe the fashion world. The Golden Fleece headpiece is part of a series of equally jaw-dropping objects also inspired by the myth. It took Corvaja over ten years alone to learn and perfect a method of spinning pure gold into malleable thread. Over the course of 2,500 hours this headpiece was woven together with 160 kilometres of very fine gold thread. The thread values in quality, between 18 and 22 carat gold, but it is not just the cost of the material and time which makes this item a luxury. The story of Corvaja’s passion and his dedication are invaluable; in his eyes the piece is priceless.


If you believe that the world of luxury is all fast cars, mansions and jewellery to die for, then it is well worth a look taking a peek at the ‘What is Luxury?’ exhibition. Not only will you be dazzled and inspired by the most carefully crafted pieces in history, but you may learn a thing or two about your possessions worth and your own take on value.



What is Your Luxury?



View all the Exhibition detail: Victoria and Albert Museum



Images © Victoria and Albert Museum