The Victoria and Albert has defended its sponsorship for a new exhibition on cars saying corporate support is “vital” in the delivery of its free and paid-for activities.
The exhibition, Cars: Accelerating The Modern World, looks at the history of cars over more than 130 years since the vehicle’s invention.
It is being sponsored by auto parts and technology company Bosch, which was fined £77m (€90m) over the Volkswagen diesel emission controversy earlier this year.
Shaping the landscape
Prosecutors said that the scandal, in which carmakers used software to throttle back real-world pollution levels during tests, was made possible with the help of Bosch technology.
However, V&A director Tristram Hunt defended the Bosch Group ahead of the opening of the “groundbreaking” exhibition on Saturday, saying he was “very grateful” for their support.
“Their interest in sustainable futures for motoring is why we’re interested in partnering with them around this,” he said.
The VW Group was found in September 2015 to have cheated air pollution tests for 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide, including 1.2 million in the UK.
An estimated 40,000 premature deaths a year in the UK are caused by air pollution, which is linked to health problems such as childhood illnesses, heart disease and dementia.
A V&A spokeswoman said: “Bosch is at the forefront of innovation, with a focus on delivering sustainable solutions for the mobility of the future.
“The V&A’s Cars exhibition both celebrates the legacy and tackles the difficult questions about the automobile, including its impact on innovation, manufacturing and the environment.
“Corporate support and sponsorship is vital to deliver the V&A’s world-class free and paid-for activities, which both educate and are enjoyed by millions of visitors each year.”
The exhibition opens as the issue of museum sponsorship is in the spotlight, with the Royal Shakespeare Company and National Galleries Scotland cutting ties with BP.
It aims to show how the car has “shaped our landscape” and will feature many models which have not been on display in the UK before, with highlights including the first production car and an “autonomous flying car”.
As well as showcasing 15 cars, objects include a dummy of a human, evolved to withstand car accidents, complete with numerous nipples on his chest to act as “a kind of airbag”.
The exhibition examines how the car transformed the world’s lust for oil and how oil has fuelled conflict.
It also shows objects from The Dodge La Femme, a car designed specifically for women – by men – in 1955 – light pink and with its own make-up set.
There are also displays about Ford’s construction of the first moving assembly line, which transformed manufacturing, and robots overtaking human labour.
A pop-up concept car imagines a driverless, flying future, complete with electric engine.
Additional reporting from PA Media.