Art deco or deco, is an eclectic artistic and design style that began in Paris in the 1920s and flourished internationally throughout the 1930s and into the World War II era. The style influenced all areas of design, including architecture and interior design, industrial design, fashion and jewelry, as well as the visual arts such as painting, graphic arts and film. The term "art deco" was first used widely in 1926, after an exhibition in Paris, 'Les Années 25' sub-titled Art Deco, celebrating the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts) that was the culmination of style moderne in Paris. At its best, art deco represented elegance, glamour, functionality and modernity. Art deco's linear symmetry was a distinct departure from the flowing asymmetrical organic curves of its predecessor style art nouveau; it embraced influences from many different styles of the early twentieth century, including neoclassical, constructivism, cubism, modernism and futurism and drew inspiration from ancient Egyptian and Aztec forms. Although many design movements have political or philosophical beginnings or intentions, art deco was purely decorative.
Art deco experienced a decline in popularity during the late 1930s and early 1940s, but had a resurgence during the 1960s with the first book on the subject by Bevis Hillier in 1968 and later an exhibition organised by him in Minneapolis in 1971. It continued with the popularization of graphic design during the 1980s. Art deco had a profound influence on many later artistic styles, such as Memphis and pop art.
Architectural examples survive in many different locations worldwide, in countries as diverse as China (Shanghai), the UK, Latvia, Spain, Cuba, Mexico, Indonesia, the Philippines, Argentina, Poland, Austria, Germany, Russia, Portugal, Romania, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, India, Brazil, Colombia and the United States. In New York, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building and Rockefeller Center are among the largest and best-known examples of the style.
After the Universal Exposition of 1900, various French artists formed an informal collective known as La Société des artistes décorateurs (the society of decorator artists). Founders included Hector Guimard, Eugène Grasset, Raoul Lachenal, Paul Bellot, Maurice Dufrêne, and Emile Decoeur. These artists greatly influenced the principles of Art Deco as a whole.
This society's purpose was to demonstrate internationally the evolution of the French decorative arts. They organized the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Art) in Paris, which would feature French art and business interests. The terms style moderne and art deco both derive from the exposition's title, though the term art deco was not used much until popularized by art historian Bevis Hillier's 1968 book Art Deco of the 20s and 30s.
During the summer of 1969, Hillier conceived organizing an exhibition named Art Deco at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, which occurred from July to September 1971. After this event, interest in Art Deco increased with the publication of his 1971 book The World of Art Deco, a record of the exhibition. Sources and influences
The structure of Art Deco is based on mathematical geometric shapes. It was widely considered to be an eclectic form of elegant and stylish modernism, being influenced by a variety of sources. The ability to travel and archaeological excavations during this time influenced artists and designers, integrating several elements from countries not their own. Among them were historical styles such as Greco-Roman Classicism, as well as the art of Babylon, Assyria, Ancient Egypt, Aztec Mexico, and Africa.
Much of this could be attributed to the popular interest in archaeology during the 1920s (e.g., the tomb of Tutankhamun, Pompeii, Troy, etc.). Art Deco also used Machine Age and streamline technologies such as modern aviation, electric lighting, radio, ocean liners and skyscrapers for inspiration. Streamline Moderne was the final interwar-period development, which most thoroughly manifests technology and has been rated by some commentators as a separate architectural style.
Art-deco design influences were expressed in the crystalline and faceted forms of decorative Cubism and Futurism. Other popular themes of Art Deco were trapezoidal, zigzagged, geometric, and jumbled shapes, which can be seen in many early works. Two great examples of these themes and styles are in Detroit, Michigan: the Fisher Building and the Guardian Building.
Art Deco was an ornamental style, and its lavishness is attributed to reaction to the forced austerity imposed by World War I. It was suitable for modern contexts, including the Golden Gate Bridge, interiors of cinema theaters (a prime example being the Paramount Theater in Oakland, California) and ocean liners such as the Île de France, Queen Mary, and Normandie. Art Deco was used extensively in the United States for railway stations during the 1930s, designed to represent the modernity and efficiency of railway trains. Around the world, a number of amusement parks were constructed with inter-war art-deco architecture, of which surviving examples include Playland (New York) and Luna Park Sydney.
Art Deco used many distinctive styles, but one of the most significant of its features was its dependence upon a range of ornaments and motifs.
The style is said to have represented the cultural politics of its time, with eclecticism having been one of its defining features. In the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald, the distinctive style of Art Deco was developed by 'all the nervous energy stored up and expended in the War'. Art Deco has been influenced partly by styles such as Cubism, Russian Constructivism and Italian Futurism, which are all evident in Art Deco decorative arts.
Materials and design
Art Deco is characterized by use of materials such as aluminium, stainless steel, lacquer, Bakelite, Chrome and inlaid wood. Exotic materials such as sharkskin (shagreen), and zebra skin were also evident. The use of stepped forms and geometric curves (unlike the sinuous, natural curves of Art Nouveau), chevron patterns, ziggurat-shapes, fountains, and the sunburst motif are typical of Art Deco. Some of these motifs were ubiquitous for example, sunburst motifs were used in such varied contexts as women's shoes, radiator grilles, radio and clock faces, the auditorium of the Radio City Music Hall, and the spire of the Chrysler Building.
A related style named Streamline Moderne, or simply Streamline, developed soon afterward. Streamline was influenced by the modern aerodynamic designs, including those developing from the advancing technologies of aviation, ballistics, and other applications requiring high velocity. The shapes resulting from scientifically applied aerodynamic principles were adopted for Art Deco, applying streamlining techniques to other useful objects of everyday life, such as cars. The Chrysler Airflow design of 1933 was unsuccessful commercially, but the beauty of the design, being functional rather than simply added ornamentation, provided the precedent for more conservatively designed pseudo-streamlined vehicles.
Streamlining quickly influenced American and European automobile design and changed the appearance from the rectangular "horseless carriages" into sleek vehicles with sweeping lines, symmetry, and V-shapes that seemed to add to their suggestiveness of speed and efficiency. Nash Motors introduced the modern fully unitized body (monocoque) design for the low-price market during 1941 that featured fastback “Slipstream” models with high prow-like hoods, and art-deco "speed lines" for chrome grilles and parallel bar trim. These aerodynamic-looking designs were applied by automakers and continued to be popular in the sellers' market after World War 2. These "streamlined" forms began to be used for the design of mundane and static objects such as pencil sharpeners, refrigerators, and gas pumps.
Art Deco explicitly uses man-made materials (particularly glass, stainless steel and the new plastics), symmetry, and repetition, modified by some Asian influences such as the use of silks and Middle Eastern designs. It was adopted strongly in the United States during the Great Depression due to its practicality and simplicity, while still suggesting a reminder of better times.
Eliminating elements that cluttered a given building, painting, or chair was the emphasis of this new development of streamlining. This simplicity is realized by the use of symmetrical geometric forms.
Art deco was a popular style used for consumer products such as furniture, china, lamps, cars, jewelry, watches, ash trays, pens and more.
Decline and resurgence
Art Deco slowly lost patronage in the West after becoming mass-produced, when it began to be derided as gaudy and presenting a false image of luxury. Eventually, the style was ended by the austerities of World War II. Before destruction during World War II, Manila possessed many art-deco buildings, a legacy of the American colonial past.
A resurgence of interest in Art Deco began during the 1960s, and then again during the 1980s with the increasing interest in graphic design. Its association with "film noir" and 1930s glamour resulted in its use for advertisements for jewelry and fashion and toiletries.
The US has some good examples of art-deco architecture. New York, Chicago, and Detroit have a great many art deco buildings: The famous skyscrapers are the best-known, but notable art deco buildings can be found in various neighborhoods. Detroit's many examples of art-deco architecture include the Fisher and Guardian Buildings both of which are now National Historic Landmarks. Los Angeles, California, also has much art-deco architecture, in particular along Wilshire Boulevard, a main thoroughfare that experienced a period of intense construction activity during the 1920s. Notable examples include the Bullocks Wilshire building and the Pellissier Building and Wiltern Theatre, built during 1929 and 1931 respectively. Both buildings experienced recent restoration.
Miami Beach, Florida, has a large collection of art-deco buildings, with some thirty blocks of hotels and apartment houses dating from the 1920s to the 1940s. During 1979, the Miami Beach Architectural District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Nearly all the buildings have been restored and painted in their original pastel colors.
Art deco was popular during the later years of the movie palace era of theatre construction. Excellent examples of art deco theatres, such as the Fargo Theatre in Fargo, North Dakota still exist throughout the United States.
Fair Park, located in Dallas, Texas, is a large collection of Art Deco structures. Much of the Art Deco heritage of Tulsa, Oklahoma remains from that city's oil boom days. Houston, Texas has some buildings surviving, such as the Houston City Hall, the JPMorgan Chase Building, Ezekiel W. Cullen Building, and the 1940 Air Terminal Museum. In Beaumont, the Jefferson County Courthouse, Kyle Building and the First National Bank Building are some of the few Art Deco buildings still in the city.
Hoover Dam is a somewhat unusual example of Art Deco design. Many dam guides state that the design was to be Gothic Revival, including the installation of gargoyles with water shooting out of their mouths.
Kansas City is home to the Kansas City Power and Light Building, which was completed during 1931. This building is a good example of the Great Depression and its effect on Art Deco construction. Original plans were for a twin tower to be built next to it on its west side. However, it was never built due to financial constraints. As a result, the 476-foot (145 m) tower has a bare west side, with no windows. Other examples of Art Deco buildings in Kansas City include Municipal Auditorium (Kansas City), the Jackson County Courthouse (Kansas City, Missouri), Kansas City City Hall; and 909 Walnut.
Cincinnati, Ohio houses the Cincinnati Union Terminal, an Art Deco style passenger railroad station that began operation during 1933. After the decrease of railroad travel, most of the building was converted to other uses. It now serves as the Cincinnati Museum Center, which serves more than one million visitors per year and is the 17th most visited museum in the United States. Cincinnati is also home to the Carew Tower, a 49-story Art Deco skyscraper built during 1931.
During 2005, the largest residential restoration project in the country and the largest collection of Art Deco buildings in New Jersey began at the 14-acre (57,000 m2) site of the former Jersey City Medical Center. The conversion of the national historic site to a residential enclave had as of 2009 been completed on three of the several buildings on the site.
Some of the finest surviving examples of Art Deco art and architecture are found in Cuba, especially in Havana. The Bacardi Building is noted for its particular art deco style. The style is expressed by the architecture of residences, businesses, hotels, and many pieces of decorative art, furniture, and utensils in public buildings, as well as in private homes.
Another country with many examples of Art Deco architecture is Brazil, especially in Porto Alegre, Goiânia and cities like Cipó (Bahia), Iraí (Rio Grande do Sul) and Rio de Janeiro, especially in Copacabana. Also in the Brazilian Northeast – notably in countryside cities, such as Campina Grande in the state of Paraiba – there is a noticeable group of Art Deco buildings, which has been termed “Sertanejo Art Deco” because of its peculiar architectural features. The reason for the style being so widespread in Brazil is its coincidence with the fast growth and radical economic changes of the country during 1930–1940.
In Santiago, Chile, Hotel Carrera (no longer a hotel) is a very fine example of Art Deco architecture. Art deco buildings are also numerous in Montevideo, Uruguay, including the Palacio Salvo, which was South America's tallest building when it was built during the late 1920s.
In Argentina, architect Alejandro Virasoro introducted Art Deco during 1926 and developed the use of reinforced concrete, with the Banco El Hogar Argentino and the Casa del Teatro (both in Buenos Aires) being his most important works. Edificio Kavanagh (1934), by Sánchez, Lagos and de la Torre, was the tallest reinforced concrete structure at its time, and a notable case of late Art Deco style. In the Buenos Aires Province, architect Francisco Salamone left cemetery portals, city halls and slaughterhouses commissioned by provincial government during 1930s, designed in a personal style which combined Art Deco with futurism. In Rosario, Santa Fe, the Palacio Minetti is the most representative Art Deco piece.
In London, the former Arsenal Stadium has the famous East Stand facade. It remains at the Arsenal football club's old home at Highbury, London Borough of Islington, which was vacated during the summer of 2006. Opened during October 1936, the structure now has Grade II listed status and has been converted into apartments. William Bennie, the organizer of the project, famously used the Art Deco style in the final design which was considered one of the most opulent and impressive stands of world football. The London Underground is also famous for many examples of Art Deco architecture. Du Cane Court, in Balham, south-west London, is a good example of the art deco style. It was reckoned to be possibly the largest block of privately owned apartments under one roof in Britain at the time it was built, and the first to employ pre-stressed concrete. It has a grand reception area and is surrounded by Japanese-style gardens; and it has had many famous residents, especially from the performing arts.
Valencia, Spain was built profusely in Art Deco style during the period of economic bounty between wars in which Spain remained neutral. Particularly remarkable are the famous bath house Las Arenas, the building hosting the Rectorship of the University of Valencia and the cinemas Rialto (currently the Filmoteca de la Generalitat Valenciana), Capitol (reconverted into an office building) and Metropol.
As a result of the inter-war period of rapid development, cities in Romania have numerous Art Deco buildings, including government buildings, hotels, and private houses. The best representative in this regard is the capital, Bucharest, which, despite the widespread destruction of its architecture during Communist times, still has many Art Deco examples, both on its main boulevards and in the lesser known parts of the city. Ploiesti also has many Art Deco houses.
One of the largest Art Deco buildings in Western Europe is the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Koekelberg, Brussels. During 1925, architect Albert van Huffel won the Grand Prize for Architecture with his scale model of the basilica at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris.
In Germany two variations of Art Deco flourished in the 1920s and 30s: The Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) employed the same curving horizontal lines and nautical motifs that are known as Streamline Moderne in the Anglophone world. While Neue Sachlichkeit was rather austere and reduced (eventually merging with the Bauhaus style), Expressionist architecture came up with a more emotional use of shapes, colours and textures, partly reinterpreting shapes from the Germany and Baltic Brick Gothic style. Notable examples are Erich Mendelsohn's Mossehaus and Schaubühne theater in Berlin, Fritz Höger's Chilehaus in Hamburg and his Kirche am Hohenzollernplatz in Berlin, the Anzeiger Tower in Hannover and the Borsig Tower in Berlin. Recently Art Deco architecture saw a revival being used as a style of choice by architects like Hans Kollhoff (see his tower on Potsdamer Platz), Jan Kleihues and Tobias Nöfer.
Shanghai, China has the largest number of Art Deco buildings in the world, followed by Mumbai.
In Indonesia, the largest stock of Dutch East Indies era buildings are in the large cities of Java. Bandung is of particular note with one of the largest remaining collections of 1920s Art Deco buildings in the world, with the notable work of several Dutch architects and planners, including Albert Aalbers that added the expressionist architecture style to the Art Deco by designing the DENIS bank (1936) and renovated the Savoy Homann Hotel (1939), Thomas Karsten, Henri Maclaine Pont, J Gerber and C.P.W. Schoemaker. The Sociëteit Concordia (now Merdeka Building) is a historic building in Bandung designed by Van Galen Last and C.P. Wolff Schoemaker, hosted Asian–African Conference during 1955. In Jakarta, the Nederlandsche Handel Maatschappij building (1929), now Museum Bank Mandiri, by J de Bryun, AP Smiths, and C Van de Linde, and right across it, the Jakarta Kota Station (1929) designed by Frans Johan Louwrens Ghijsels, and Metropole cinema in Menteng area are the surviving Art Deco buildings in Jakarta.
In China, at least sixty buildings designed by Hungarian architect Laszlo Hudec survive in downtown Shanghai of which many are Art Deco.
In Japan, the 1933 residence of Prince Asaka in Tokyo is an Art Deco house turned museum.
In the Philippines, art deco buildings are found mostly in Manila, Iloilo City, and Sariaya. The best examples of these are the older buildings of the Far Eastern University and the Manila Metropolitan Theater, which are both in Manila.
The town of Napier, New Zealand, was rebuilt in the Art Deco style after being largely razed by the Hawke's Bay earthquake of February 3, 1931 and is the world's most consistently art deco city. Although a few Art Deco buildings were replaced with contemporary structures during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, most of the centre remained intact long enough to become recognized as architecturally unique, and from the 1990s onwards had been protected and restored. As of 2007, Napier has been nominated for UNESCO World Heritage Site status, the first cultural site in New Zealand to be nominated. According to the World Heritage Trust, when Napier is compared to the other cites noted for their art deco architecture, such as Miami Beach, Santa Barbara, Bandung in Indonesia (planned originally as the future capital of Java), and Asmara in Eritrea (built by the Italians as a model colonial city), "none... surpass Napier in style and coherence.
Hastings was also rebuilt in Art Deco style after the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake, and many fine art deco buildings survive.
Wellington has retained a sizeable number of Art Deco buildings, in spite of constant post-World War II development.
Australia also has many surviving examples of Art Deco architecture. Among the most notable are 'mini-skyscrapers' such as the Grace Building (Sydney) and the Manchester Unity Building (Melbourne) featuring purely decorative towers to circumvent the height restriction laws of the time. The Former Russell Street Police Headquarters, also in Melbourne, was for many years the headquarters of the Victoria Police before they were relocated to William Street about 1990. The main multi-storey brick building located on the west of the site was constructed 1940–1943 in the Art Deco style by architect Percy Edgar Everett and is reminiscent of the design of the Empire State Building. Many rural towns such as Wagga Wagga, Albury and Griffith have significant amounts of Art Deco buildings and homes.
Africa's most celebrated examples of Art Deco were built in Eritrea during Italian rule. Many buildings survive in Asmara, the capital, and elsewhere.
Also there are many buildings in downtown Casablanca, Morocco's economic capital. During Portuguese colonial rule in Angola and Mozambique, a large number of buildings were erected especially in the capital cities of Luanda and Maputo. Cities in South Africa also contain examples of art-deco design such as the City Hall, in Benoni, Gauteng, constructed during 1937. There are a few art deco buildings in Egypt, one of the most famous being the former Cadillac dealership in downtown Cairo.
Art Deco influenced later styles such as Memphis and Pop art. It also affected post-modern architecture and styles, even through to the late 1970s. Art Deco has also influenced contemporary design.
House design in the United Kingdom
During the 1930s, Art Deco had a noticeable effect on house design in the United Kingdom, as well as the design of various public buildings. Straight, white-rendered house frontages rising to flat roofs, sharply geometric door surrounds and tall windows, as well as convex-curved metal corner windows, were all characteristic of that period.