Ocean Liners: Speed & Style

Though the great age of ocean liners has long passed, no form of transport has been so romantic or so remarkable. From 3 February onwards modern day cruise fans and admirers of the great ocean liners can combine a trip to London with Ocean Liners: Speed & Style, a new exhibition at the V&A Museum.

Titanic in dry dock

From February onwards the V&A is bringing the golden age of ocean travel back to life with Ocean Liners: Speed & Style, an exhibition dedicated to the design and cultural impact of the ocean liner. The exhibition showcases all aspects of ship design from ground-breaking engineering, architecture and interiors to the fashion and lifestyle aboard.

Marquestry panel, Deluxe suite wall panel from the SS Ile de France

Ocean Liners: Speed & Style displays over 250 objects, including paintings, sculptures and ship models, alongside objects from shipyards, wall panels, furniture, fashion, textiles, photographs, posters and film. The exhibition displays objects never-before-seen in Europe and reunites objects not seen together since on-board these spectacular vessels, which revolutionised ocean travel from the mid-19th century to the late 20th century.

Highlights include a precious Cartier tiara recovered from the sinking Lusitania in 1915, as well as a panel fragment from the Titanic’s first class lounge, returning to the UK for the first time since its doomed maiden voyage in 1912.

Others include a stunning interior panel from the Smoking Room of the French liner, Normandie, created by leading Art Deco lacquer artist Jean Dunand and Stanley Spencer’s painting ‘The Riveters’ from the 1941 series Shipbuilding on the Clyde. The Duke of Windsor’s sumptuous 1940s Goyard luggage is on display for the first time in Europe since leaving the Windsor Estate.

SS Normandie in New York

As the largest machines of their age, ocean liners became powerful symbols of progress and 20th century modernity. The exhibition also features ground-breaking works by Modernist artists, designers and architects inspired by liners, including Le Corbusier, Albert Gleizes, Charles Demuth and Eileen Gray.

Beginning with Brunel’s steamship, the Great Eastern of 1859, the exhibition traces the design stories behind some of the world’s most luxurious liners, from the Beaux-Arts interiors of Kronprinz Wilhelm, Titanic and its sister ship, Olympic, to the floating Art Deco palaces of Queen Mary and Normandie, and the streamlined Modernism of SS United States and QE2.

Ocean Liners: Speed & Style also throws light on the famous passengers and the great couturiers who looked to ocean travel to promote their designs.

Marlene Dietrich arriving in New York on 21 December 1950 onboard the Queen Elizabeth

On display are the Christian Dior suit worn by Marlene Dietrich as she arrived in New York aboard the Queen Mary in 1950, and a striking Lucien Lelong couture gown worn for the maiden voyage of Normandie in 1935. The exhibition also showcases one of the most important flapper dresses in the V&A’s collection – Jeanne Lanvin’s ‘Salambo’ dress – a version of which was displayed at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris in 1925. The dress belonged to Emilie Grigsby, a renowned wealthy American beauty, who regularly travelled between the UK and New York aboard the Aquitania, Olympic and Lusitania throughout the 1910s and 1920s.

Ocean Liners: Speed & Style runs from 3 February – 10 June 2018 in Room 39 and the North Court in the V&A Museum, London. Admission: £18, tickets can be booked in person at the V&A, online at vam.ac.uk/oceanliners or by calling 0800 912 6961 (booking fee applies) #OceanLiners

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