Published: March 4, 2003
LONDON – The Victoria and Albert Museum is presenting “Art Deco 1910-1939.” The show will be the first to explore Art Deco as a global phenomenon affecting cities as far apart as Paris, New York, Bombay and Shanghai.
Art Deco brought an exotic, vibrant style to the most precious and exclusive works of art as well as to mass-produced objects that were widely available. Art Deco flourished between the two world wars and the exhibition will trace the development of the style from its beginnings in Europe before the First World War to its global popularity in the late 1930s. Art Deco will be presented as an eclectic and exciting response to modern-day demands.
After the presentation at the Victoria and Albert Museum, “Art Deco 1910-1939” will travel to the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto (autumn 2003); the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco (spring 2004); and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (autumn 2004). Four books will be published by V&A Publications to coincide with the exhibition opening.
“Art Deco 1910-1939” captures the spirit of the period with important master works from public and private collections worldwide. It includes more than 300 works of paintings, sculpture, architecture, furniture, textiles, glass, metal, jewelry, graphic art, product design, fashion, film and photography.
Highlights of the show include original architectural elements from the foyer of the Strand Palace Hotel, London, one of the most celebrated Art Deco interiors of the period, a selection of important works from master furniture designer Jacques-Emil Ruhlmann’s influential Art Deco Grand Salon, exhibited at the Paris Exhibition of 1925 and brought together for the first time since 1925; Cartier Art Deco jewelry; paintings and sculpture by some of the most important artists of the Twentieth Century, including Fernand Leger, Sonia and Robert Delaunay and Constantin Brancusi; and fashion by designers such as Jeanne Lanvin, Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaperelli.
Ghislaine Wood, chief curator of the exhibition, said, “For much of the Twentieth Century, Art Deco was dismissed as a purely hedonistic and frivolous style. The exhibition will explore how Art Deco in fact represented new values and responded to human needs through the conscious celebration of fantasy, fun, glamour and commerce. It became a universal phenomenon transforming the look of everything from factories and cinemas to fashion land photography. Art Deco was arguably the most popular style of the last century and one that has enormous appeal for people all over the world today.”
The Deco period began in 1910 when Art Nouveau slid out of fashion. Its highpoint was in 1925 at the Paris exhibition, the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes, and the style culminated at the New York World’s Fair in 1939. The term Art Deco was coined in 1966 and was taken from the Paris exhibition in 1925. Before this the style was known by terms, including “Jazz Moderne,” “Streamline Moderne” or simple “Moderne.”
“Art Deco 1910-1939” will feature a wide range of works by leading artists and designers, including Edgar Brandt, Susie Cooper, Henry Dreyfus, Jean Dupas, Josef Gocar, Eileen Gray, Josef Hoffmann, Rene Lalique, Raymond Loewy, Pierre Legrain, Tamara de Lempicka, Gio Ponti, Jean Puiforcat, Andre Sue and Walter Dorwin Teague.
The presentation is divided into sections: “The Style and the Age” presents a series of iconic Art Deco objects from around the world to show the defining characteristics of the style. Objects range from paintings and fashion to industrial design. “The Sources” explores artifacts from ancient Egypt and Greece, Meso-America, Africa, Japan and China. “The 1925 Paris Exhibition” was the high point of the first phase of Art Deco. A group of important works exhibited in Ruhlmann’s influential Pavilion d’un Collectioneur at the 1925 exhibition, including Jean Dupas’ famous painting “Les Perruches (The Parrots)” are reunited. “The Spread of Art Deco” explores two of the main approaches to Art Deco in Europe, the Exotic and the Moderne. The first focuses on exotic imagery and materials used to create exciting modern design while the second reveals how designers responded to the stock market crash of 1929 by using new materials — plastic, chrome, aluminum — that changed the look of Deco.
“The Deco World” shows the global development of Art Deco. Cars, trains and ocean liners, all symbols of the modern world, helped spread the style around the globe, as did the popularity of Hollywood films. During the Depression, Streamlining emerged as a symbol of speed and efficiency. Applied to everything from buildings and cars to radios and fashion, it represents the last and arguably the most glamorous phase of Art Deco.
The Victoria and Albert Museum is on Cromwell Road, South Kensington. For information, 44207 942 2000 or www.van.ac.uk.
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