Thursday, December 19, 2013

When Art Deco Dazzled the World

The Hildreth Meière book is at the printer. The semester has ended and I’ve corrected final exams and submitted grades. So now I finally have the opportunity to focus on my upcoming trip to Paris in January.
The primary purpose of this excursion is to view the exhibition
1925, When Art Deco Dazzled the World at the Citè de l’architecture& du patrimoine (City of Architecture & Heritage) in the Palais de Chaillot. This exhibition is the first major French retrospective to examine the sources and worldwide influence of the Art Deco movement and its manifestation in diverse forms of artistic expression, including furniture, architecture, sculpture, painting, and objets d’art.
The exhibition is organized around a series of themes, such as the relationship of Art Nouveau and Art Deco, the impact of Art Deco on post-World War I reconstruction, the Art Deco interiors of luxury ocean liners, and the global spread of Art Deco. Of special interest to me is the section devoted to the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, the International Exposition of Decorative Arts and Modern Industry. Although the roots of what we now call Art Deco can be traced to well before this event, the Exposition introduced this modern approach to design to an international audience. 
The invitation to participate stipulated that only works displaying “new inspiration and real originality” were to be shown. As the organizers made clear, “Reproductions, imitations, and counterfeits of ancient styles will be strictly prohibited.” Although France dominated the Exposition, other countries, primarily European, participated as well. The United States declined the invitation because, according to the Hoover Commission, the country’s manufacturers and craftsmen “had almost nothing to exhibit conceived in the modern spirit.”
Robert Mallet-Stevens
Although When Art Deco Dazzled prompted the upcoming trip, there are plenty of other Art Deco sites in Paris and its environs that I hope to visit as well—the rue Mallet-Stevens with its collection of Art Deco residences designed by architect Robert Mallet-Stevens in the 1920s, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs with its extensive collection of Art Deco furniture, and the Musée des Annees 30, the Museum of the 1930s, in the suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt, which is filled with houses designed by Le Corbusier, Mallet-Stevens, Pierre Patout, and several other architects of the period.
The fall 2013 issue of The Chicago Art Deco Society Magazine contains an article with more information about the retrospective, which continues through February 17, 2014, as well as images of some of the spectacular objects on display. Accompanying the article is a list of Art Deco sites in and around Paris compiled by CADS Magazine copy editor, Linda Levendusky.  To access the article, go to the CADS website,, and click on CADS Magazine.
By the way, the term Art Deco was not used in 1925. Although it is derived from the name of the Paris Exposition, it first appeared in 1966 as the subtitle of the catalogue for an exhibition held at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs.