Ocean Liners: Speed and Style

I’ve always had a passion for the history of the maritime industry.  And particularly on the history of the great liners through the 20th Century (I even wrote about it for my A level history!).

Ocean Liners: Speed and Style is a new exhibit at the V&A which takes you on a journey through the design stories of the world’s greatest ocean liners, including the Titanic, the Normandie, the Queen Mary and the SS United States (to name but a few).  During their time these were the symbols of national pride.  They personified their countries all the way down to their design, interiors and ambience.

These gigantic technological behemoths ploughed through the oceans of the world providing a realm of opulence that was unmatched on land.  Though it wasn’t all smooth-sailing for everyone, with a stark contrast in living conditions depending on how much you paid, and of course some of the greatest tragedies of the 20th Century including the sinking of the Titanic and the Lusitania.

The exhibit is a celebration of the liner, taking you through intimate rooms that showcase the advertising, the interiors from various ships, the physical engineering of the ships, what life was like on board, how the liner has influenced modernist art, as well as a look to the future, with a scale model of the upcoming Viking Jupiter on display.

Over 250 artefacts of all shapes and sizes are on display through the exhibit.  Highlights include a 5m-long scale model of the Queen Elizabeth, which greets you as you enter the exhibit;  an art deco panel from the Normandie; a Cartier tiara recovered from the Lusitania which sank in 1915; the Christian Dior suit worn by German actress Marlene Dietrich as she arrived in New York aboard the Queen Mary in 1950; and a panel from the Titanic’s first-class lounge, returned to the UK for the first time since 1912.

Simply put, if you can, you should go see this exhibit in London or Dundee.  I found it fascinating and totally awe-inspiring, and will most likely be going to see it again in the future!

Ocean Liners: Speed and Style runs from February 3 until June 17, 2018, at the V&A. Tickets cost £18, concessions available. Advanced booking is advised on vam.ac.uk/oceanliners. The exhibition will then run from September 15, 2018, until February 24, 2019, at the new V&A Dundee.  The exhibit is sponsored by Viking Cruises.

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