Deco Revival is an explosion of brass, opaline, and velvet in a very creative way. It’s all about having fun and forgetting what’s common while rediscovering what’s essential.
The term ‘Art Deco’ is taken from the name of the 1925 Paris exhibition titled Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes. The most popular and respected French artists of the day showcased their work at this exhibition.
Jewelry makers, graphic artists, painters, architects, fashion designers and all other manner of craftsmen and women displayed their pieces at the exhibition. All of the works had a commonality – they were not only functional, but also very beautiful (i.e. decorative).
The term came up again in an article by the architect, Le Corbusier, titled ‘1925: Arts Déco’ and in 1966 at the retrospective exhibition titled Les années ’25: ArtDeco / Bauhaus / Stijl / Esprit Nouveau. But it wasn’t until Bevis Hiller published his book, Art Deco of the 20s and 30s in 1968 that term was used to truly define that style movement.
In essence, Art Deco is a modern interpretation – ‘Espirit Nouveau’ – of the art movement that preceded it, Art Nouveau. So it may be helpful to structure the Art Deco definition in contrast to Art Nouveau.
Art Nouveau came into existence as a reaction to the purely functional and practical spirit of the Industrial Revolution. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, society was primarily concerned with production, machinery and the output of goods. Less focus was placed on beauty.
If something did not serve a practical purpose, it was in essence useless, regardless of how much pleasure it gave you to look at and admire it. But just like with anything in life, when you focus on one aspect of something at the exclusion of another, the other comes back with a vengeance! And so in came Art Nouveau.
Artists of the day began creating works of art that were highly stylized and purely decorative. The focus started to shift from the cold, dismal, lifeless factories to the energetic, colourful natural environment. Artists began to incorporate naturalistic motifs into their works – dragonflies, insects, flowers, birds, flowing water, etc.
Rounded edges, scrolls and curves were very popular as they evoked a more organic, natural feel. Moreover, the focus was back on beauty and decoration. Everything from architecture to jewelry to common household objects was embellished and beautified – function took a back seat and beauty was glorified.
Art Deco followed in Art Nouveau’s footsteps in that it also paid homage to beauty, but it was a more ‘modern’ interpretation. The Machine Age was well underway at this time and function became an important requirement again. The rounded, scroll, naturalistic motifs of Nouveau were replaced with geometric, angular and streamlined motifs like zigzags and chevrons (notice the difference in designs in the two lamp pictures above). Function was important, but not at the expense of beauty and decoration.
To sum up, the Art Deco definition can be outlined as follows: Art Deco is both a functional AND decorative artistic style that emerged in the early 1920s and influenced all forms of creative design.
[Art Deco, short for Arts Décoratifs, is a visual arts style that spanned a range of disciplines, but its influence in architecture can be identified in geometric forms that draw on cubism, rich materials and bold colours.
The aesthetic emerged in France in the 1920s, from the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts held in Paris. It spread internationally, influencing major projects like the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building in New York. ]
Art Deco was looked upon poorly throughout the 40’s and 50’s, but saw a resurgence in the 60’s. Similar to the 20’s, the mood of the 60’s was one of optimism and hopefulness. The economy was steady, pop culture was flourishing and the hippie culture was re-inventing the meaning of liberation. In contrast to minimalistic design trends, Art Deco finds its foundation in geometric shapes, rich colors and strong angles.
The 60’s saw the birth of the Pop Art and Postodern movements which were regarded to be reminiscent of Art Deco. Both styles relied heavily on the use of bold, bright colours and angular, geometric designs – just like Art Deco. The public began to take an interest again in Art Deco and it was during the 1960’s that “Deco sites were stylishly refurbished.”
The Roaring Twenties are infamous for their prohibition parties, Charleston dancing and loosening moral codes. Likewise, the 70’s were all about uber-glam Studio 54 parties, disco dancing and hedonism. Mirrored disco balls, slinky, highly-sexualized fashions and emergence of punk music are extensions of the style movement that began in the 20’s.
One of the best examples of Art Deco revival in the 70’s has to be Big Biba. This London department store, with it’s marbled floors, dramatic use of mirrors, peacock feather decor, figurative lamps, geometric patterns and sweeping curcves came to be know as “the sexiest shop in the world” at the time. The luxe interiors, including The 5th floor restaurant, The Rainbow Room, were oozing with Art Deco glamour.
The 1980’s were all about excess, luxury and status. The “ME” generation glorified real estate tycoons like Donald Trump and the young hot shots of Wall Street. The fashion world’s mantra was ‘Bigger, Brighter, Bolder’. The Concorde was the premium travel choice of the jet set crowd. The personal computer made its entry into the average home. And Miami Vice was one of the most popular shows on television – putting a bright, neon spotlight on the South Beach Art Deco District.
The culture of the 1980’s was reminiscent of the 1920’s in that luxury, leisure and technology were front and centre. And it was during this decade that saw another Art Deco resurgence, particularly in the realm of graphic design. Also, fashion and jewelry silhouettes were influenced heavily by the angular, geometric designs of the Art Deco era. Nightclubs, cocktail bars and hotel lobbies were again emerging as hot spots of the young and affluent. More than anything, the 1980’s lifestyle was reminiscent of the hedonistic, pleasure-seeking days of Deco.
ART DECO AND THE RISE OF TECHNOLOGY
Art deco, to put it simply, is a style of visual excess that first rose to popularity in the years after World War I and remained a cornerstone of the international art community for decades. Even present art historians have difficulty breaking down the defining artistic characteristics of the era, choosing to define it only as an incredibly heterogeneous art movement composed of both historical and futuristic influences. Art deco was equally fascinated with the rise of technology (reflected in the burgeoning science-fiction industry) as it was with ancient historical artifacts like the pyramids in Egypt. Artists incorporated sharp angular lines (reflective of futurist art deco impulses) as well as softer, pastoral shapes and architectural designs from history.
With such a riot of influences, art critics understandably had a difficult time categorizing the art deco movement at its outset. Without defined characteristics that united the artists, how could the art movement even be described, let alone criticized effectively? Yet the movement spread, perhaps precisely because of its intangibles and its displacement of conventional boundaries. Artists were free to explore and expand their influences, mish-mashing futuristic and historical styles in pursuit of creating art as grandiose as the rapidly changing industrial economic landscape.
Art deco also found a heavy following among architects, with many famous historical hotels being built under art deco influence with riotous color schemes (red, gold, rich greens, etc.) clashing with elegant historic gothic arches, gargoyles, and traditional masonry structures. Gilded and / or highly stylized doors were also a common feature of art deco architecture, with builders choosing to inlay a wide variety of designs in various metals. In a way, this hearkened back to the traditional guild craftsmanship of the Middle Ages, as artists revived old inlay techniques and took design cues from highly decorative illuminated manuscripts made popular by monastery monks.
With such far-reaching historical influences, it’s no wonder that art deco remains a treasure (and a popular art movement for study) even today. There are art deco preservation societies in many major metropolitan areas with art historians and art critics dedicated to both preserving traditional art deco sites as well as informing the public about the art movement itself. We have also seen periodic revivals of the art deco style in many of these same metropolitan areas (including New York) as architects in particular frequently return to the unique mish-mash of sharp, angular, futuristic lines and softer, more rounded shapes of historic sculpture and masonry. Art deco is, perhaps above all else, representative of that bridge between the old and the new, showing that something wonderfully unique can be created when they are brought together.
Just under 100 years later, the aesthetic is now experiencing a major revival in a slew of new projects.
DESIGNERS ARE REVIVING ART DECO FOR THE DIGITAL ERA
The fascination with Art Deco never seems to go away. Popular Deco destinations like South Beach Miami, New York, Montreal, Havana and Paris are more popular than ever. Art Deco enthusiasts continue to attend annual Art Deco Congresses and ‘Art Deco Weekend’ festivals.
The release of Baz Luhrmann’s, ‘The Great Gatsby’, movie in 2013 created a frenzy for all things Art Deco. Today’s celebrities seem to have an obsession with the Deco look – red lips, sparkling diamonds and all out glamour gowns are a common sight on the red carpet. So many of today’s hotels, nightclubs and restaurants are being infused with an Art Deco aesthetic.
It seems that we as a society have an unquenchable thirst for beauty, glamour and luxury. Art Deco represents hope, optimism and beauty and even during tough economic times, the appeal of Art Deco is hard to ignore. At the end of a long hard day, there’s nothing better than a cocktail, a dose of leisure and a huge helping of hope for a brighter future.
The biggest design trend of the year might just be a renewed romance with Art Deco forms. But unlike the 1920s version, which favored mass production and streamlined geometries, this 21st-century redux — dubbed Neo Deco — places more emphasis on swooping curves, bespoke embellishments, attention to detail and precious materials.
Art Deco Revival is quickly becoming one of the favorite design trends for 2019! Actually, it’s a combination of the new aesthetic and Scandinavian concepts that make the look oh so luxe.
Whether you’re doing a full re-design or want to bring just a hint of this style into your space, look for playful forms, optimistic colors, and geometric lines. Pieces created from natural materials elevates the style and add a hint of mid-century design thinking too. As always, a heritage-level of craftsmanship is worth investing in! We’re excited to discover so many unique elements bridging the decades from modern interior essentials to old Hollywood glamour.
The bold colors and cartoonish shapes of Masquespacio’s Toadstool collection seem, at first blush, to be directly inspired by the Memphis Group. But look closer at the Spanish brand’s sofa and the influence of Art Deco is readily apparent.
“The movement is pure emotion,” says creative director Ana Milena Hernández Palacios, who was exposed to Art Deco by watching films. “It went against rational design, which we identify with. We like to defend the fact that there are other ways to think and see than what already exists.”
When he began thinking about new pieces for the Lantern collection, Apparatus creative director Gabriel Hendifar found himself drawn to the first 30 years of the 20th century, particularly Art Deco, the Bauhaus and works by Austrian architect Josef Hoffmann and Irish furniture designer Eileen Gray.
Composed of several pendant variations in addition to floor and table lamps, the series’ historical connection is most evident in the glow from the fluted slip-cast porcelain shades — “light passing through a delicate protective form,” Hendifar says, noting his love for the “softer, poetic approach of French Deco.” He says, “The Art Deco period was one that offered a striking progression of ideas about modernity. I admire its principles of superior craftsmanship . . . and strong faith in social and technological progress.”
Italian designer Gio Tirotto never liked “the excessive repetition and frequent lack of a design message” in Art Deco, so the emergence of Neo Deco comes as a relief. “In the last 10 years, design has come back to identify closely with the craftsman,” he says, which has “changed the general shape of objects and spaces.” Take, for instance, his Wiener Werkstätte–inspired Disarmante table lamp, made of eye-catching, laser-cut brass, or his Rolling Dry Bar for Italian metal specialists Mingardo. Not only are these forms “more precisely detailed,” he says, they’re more distinctive and interesting. Josef Hoffmann would approve.