A giant silver-backed gorilla stands sentry inside the lobby of the V&A museum, temporary home to the recently announced Power of Making exhibition. On closer examination, the fur of the chest-beating gorilla is made entirely of steel coat-hangers, a second in a series of metal primates by Scottish sculptor David Mach. The exhibition exposes the aesthetics of quality engineering and design, highlighting the integral connection between fine art and the process of creating it.
The Power of Making acknowledges the challenge of innovative design and production, focusing on a wide range of industries including fashion. The collection features a selection of couture garments that explore the use of different composites, materials and structures, playing host to Susie McMurray’s now infamous porcupine Widow dress. The potentially deadly design is constructed of 43 kg adamantine dress maker’s pins that puncture a leather ball gown, mimicking a tinsel-like texture that is sharp to the touch. The late Alexander McQueen’s Armadillo Shoes also feature, highlighting the importance of collaboration between skilled makers and designers to produce structurally-complex pieces such as these impossibly high platforms. The design was inspired by the ballet shoes of a point ballerina and have been worn by the likes of Daphne Guinness and Lady Gaga.
Death is heavily referenced, showcasing four alternative fully-functional coffins, ranging from eco-friendly wicker versions to opulently carved, lion-shaped Sarcophagi. The latter is Ghanaian Lion, a colossal lacquered coffin by Ghana-born artist Paa Joe, whose reincarnation coffins have been displayed in art galleries across the world. Burial designs commissioned by clients to spend their afterlife encased in include a squid, a cigar, a plane and an eagle. Housed within a museum synonymous with quality design and manufacturing, the Power of Making is a captivating visit for engineers and art-buffs alike.