V&A revisits the golden age of sea travel with Ocean Liners exhibit

The V&A’s first exhibition of 2018 showcases the luxurious past of sea travel.

Opening this Saturday, the V&A is premiering an exhibit which will be the first to present the design and cultural impact of ocean liners on society.

Ranging from the creation of Isembard Kingdom Brunel’s Great Eastern, to the Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2), the exhibition highlights how significant the ocean liners were.

“They hold a really powerful place in the popular and cultural imagination,” said Anna Ferrari, Project Curator.

“They were symbols of modernity and progress.”

Starting from the mid-19th century, the exhibition traces the development of ocean liners as mere transportation ships to floating palaces.

As countries changed their immigration laws, shipping companies shifted towards the middle class.

In order to attract this new clientele, the companies created Ritz-like interiors to go hand in hand with the ‘Roaring Twenties’.

“Shipping companies promoted ocean travel as a leisure activity and something you could do in the most elegant style,” Ms Ferrari added.

The exhibit’s highlights include a wooden panel from the first-class lounge of the Titanic, a diamond and pearl Cartier tiara from the Lusitania and a golden leaf lacquer panel by Jean Dunand from the Normandie.

The tiara was rescued from the sunk Lusitania in 1915 and ideally shows the transformation from necessity to complete leisure in the 20th century.

The scale of Jean Dunand’s lacquer panel from the Frensh ship, the Normandie, is something, Ms Ferrari thinks shows how grand the interior designs of the ships were but also how they came to represent a national symbol.

“It gives a sense of how shipping lines were trying to present the best design, the best crafts of France to the world all in one liner.

“A highlight of how ships came to present national identity” she added.

The ocean liners showed not only the progression but as the exhibition shows, it brought artists to the forefront.

Ghislaine Wood, Exhibition Curator, said: “The age of ocean liners has long since passed but no form of transport has been so romantic or so remarkable.”

Ocean Liners: Speed and Style runs from Saturday 3 February – Sunday 17 June 2018 admissions £18.


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