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Art Deco at the Victoria and Albert Museum


Preview: Jack Foley

THE Art Deco style is probably best symbolised by New York's Chrysler Building, a majestic skyscraper that stands as a focal point, alongside the Empire State Building, for any visitor to the Big Apple.

The name was actually derived from the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs Industriels et Modernes, held in Paris, which celebrated living in the modern world, yet, today, is used to refer to a mix of styles from the 1920s and 1930s.

Fans of the style should therefore find themselves irresistibly drawn to the Victoria and Albert Museum for the Art Deco: 1910-1939 exhibition, which runs until July 20, 2003).

Divided into five sections, the event explores the development of the style in Europe in the years before the First World War, its highpoint at the Paris Exhibition of 1925 and its subsequent spread around the world to cities as far apart as New York, Bombay and Shanghai.

The sections will be:
l The Style and the Age - A series of iconic Art Deco objects from around the world will be presented to show the defining characteristics of the style. Objects will represent different media and will range from paintings and fashion to industrial design.

l The sources - Art Deco is an eclectic style and designers drew inspiration from many sources. Artefacts from Ancient Egypt and Greece, Meso-America, Africa, Japan and China all proved influential, while contemporary designers drew on Avant-garde art and design. Cubism, Orphism, Futurism and Constructivism provided an abstract, geometric language that was quickly assimilated in to the Deco style and the high styles of European tradition continued to provide inspiration.

The following three sources will be explored: Ancient and Exotic, The Avant-garde and National Traditions.

l The 1925 Paris Exhibition - A section dedicated to the Paris Exhibition of 1925 will mark the high point of the first phase of Art Deco. The highlight of this section will bring together a group of important works exhibited in Ruhlmann’s influential Pavilion d’un Collectioneur at the 1925 exhibition. It will include Jean Dupas’ famous painting, Les Perruches (The Parrots).

l The Spread of Art Deco - This will explore two of the main visual approaches to Art Deco in Europe.
The Exotic will show how European designers used Exotic imagery and materials to create exciting modern design.
The Moderne section will reveal how designers responded to the stock market crash of 1929. New materials such as plastic, chrome and aluminium began to be used and changed the look of Deco. A reconstruction of the Foyer of the Strand Palace Hotel in London will form the centrepiece.

l The Deco World - This will show the development of Art Deco globally and how it’s glamour appealed to audiences world-wide, taking in cars, trains and ocean liners, all symbols of the modern world, which helped to spread the style around the globe.

l The Internationalisation of the style - The focus of this section will be Art Deco in India, Japan and China. One of the highlights will be an Indian silver-covered four poster bed made for a Maharajah.

The exhibition will also take in Manhattan's Modern Art Deco, which had a unique impact in America. Skyscrapers, such as the Chrysler building in New York, became icons of the style, while Jazz became the music of the city. The huge popularity of Hollywood film did much to promote Art Deco world-wide.

Streamlining The Depression saw Streamlining emerge as a symbol of speed and efficiency. It was applied to everything from buildings and cars to radios and fashion. It represents the last and arguably the most glamorous phase of Art Deco.

A wide range of works by leading Art Deco artists and designers will be on display including works by Edgar Brandt, Pierre Chareau, Chiparus, Clarice Cliff, Susie Cooper, Henry Dreyfus, Jean Dunand, Jean Dupas, Josef Gocár, Eileen Gray, André Groult, Edward Hald, Josef Hoffmann, Michel De Klerk, René Lalique, Raymond Loewy, Pierre Legrain, Tamara de Lempicka, Maurice Marinot, Gio Ponti, Jean Puiforcat, Armand-Albert Rateau, Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann, André Süe and Walter Dorwin Teague.

ABOUT THE V&A:

The purpose of the Victoria and Albert Museum is to enable everyone to enjoy its collections and explore the cultures that created them; and to inspire those who shape contemporary design. All of its efforts are focused upon a central purpose – the increased use of its displays, collections and expertise as resources for learning, creativity and enjoyment by audiences within and beyond the United Kingdom.

Art Deco at the V&A, until July 20; Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, South Kensington, London, SW7 2RL. Opening hours: 10am to 5.45pm, daily; 10am to 10pm, Wednesdays and the last Friday of the month.

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