What is luxury?

e9490e54-27e3-48c4-b9c2-a45d5b6ac8b4-2060x2060-1A brilliant thought provoking show has just opened at the V&A. It is a two room exhibition exploring the meaning of luxury, with the first room looking at a selection of none essential items that are all about exclusivity and the skill it takes to make the items, like a Golden Fleece hat by Giovanni Corvaja who spent years working on transforming gold into thread and then used 160km of the golden strands to make the hat which took him 2,500 working hours (pic right).

With artists  speculating about alternative ideas about luxury, the second room is particularly good to explore. One exhibit (pic top) shows a set of tools, a dial-less watch that heats up with the sun, a compass with no needle and a blanket so you can get lost on a journey. “It is almost impossible to get truly lost these days. It would take a lot of effort to experience this luxury,” artist Marcin Rusak says of his creation.

One of the most striking exhibits is a piece by members of the Unknown Fields Division of the Architectural Association. They have been looking at supply chains of consumer technologies, like smartphones, and filmed a journey to Inner Mongolia, where the by-products of tech manufacture are pumped into viscous lakes thick with radioactive and poisonous mud. Artists wearing masks have made three pottery urns from the amount of waste mud left after making a car battery, a laptop and a smartphone.

The exhibition is small but you need to take time to explore it properly. Well worth a visit. What is Luxury? at the V&A from tomorrow, 25th April – 27th September. And it is free. Luxury.  vam.ac.uk

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