Xerjoff Magazine

“Ocean Liners: Speed & Style”: cruising with glamour


The Normandie in New York 1935-39. Collection French Lines.

“Ocean Liners: Speed & Style”, an exhibition taking place in London proposes a plunge into the past, taking you on a journey through the golden age of travel, when ocean liners were the only transport crossing the ocean; all in pursuit of revealing the true luxury and glamour behind them

An exhibition taking place at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London (Cromwell Rd., Knightsbridge) celebrates the golden age of ocean travel, when ocean liners were the only transportation connecting the different continents. For over a century the charming ‘great floating palaces’ have been one of the most powerful and admired symbols of modern engineering and progress. The diffusion of this mean of transportation is attributed to the English engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel who in 1859 designed the Great Eastern using iron instead of wood, an expedient that allowed to greatly increase the size of the ships. “Ocean Liners: Speed ​​& Style”, is the title of the exhibition. It reveals the hidden stories, the engineering and interior design of some of the world’s largest and most famous ocean liners, including the Titanic, the Normandie, the Queen Mary and the Canberra. The exhibition re-imagines the golden age of ocean travel, with hundreds of objects including paintings, sculpture, ship models, fashion, furniture, original artefacts, photographs, posters and films, all organized along an exhibition path comprising over 250 artefacts, divided into various sections, focusing on the different aspects that have contributed to creating the myth of overseas travelling and ocean liners: history, research, design, style, furniture, innovative engineering, engines and speed. Great attention is paid to the stages that led to the creation of the interior design of the ships, providing eloquent examples of its magnificence: from the Art Nouveau interiors of the Kronprinz Wilhelm, the Titanic and its twin sister ship, the Olympic, to the Art Deco of the ‘great floating buildings’ like the Queen Mary and the Normandie, up to the most linear and modernist styles of the American Ocean liners SS United States and QE2. Numerous and all interesting are the artefacts on show: among them, a Christian Dior day suit worn by Marlene Dietrich when she arrived in New York aboard the Queen Mary in 1950, a striking Lucien Lelong couture gown worn for the maiden voyage of Normandie in 1935, a wooden panel fragment from a door in the first-class lounge on the Titanic (1911), a very precious diamond and pearl tiara by Cartier (1909), previously owned by Lady Marguerite Allan and saved from the Lusitania shipwreck. The exhibition will be open until July 27th and Ghislaine Wood and Daniel Finamore have curated it.

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