Art Deco 1910-39 at the V&A

Promises to be one of the most glamorous exhibitions of the year


This promises to be one of the most glitzy and glamorous exhibitions of the year, as the V&A turns its scholarly gaze on Art Deco. A 1935 Gordon Miller Buehrig, “Boat Tail” Speedster has been installed in one of its galleries; the dazzling glass foyer of the Strand Palace hotel has been reconstructed; and a complete replica of Ruhlmann’s Grand Salon has been recreated. Curated by Ghislaine Woods, who brought us the V&A’s hugely successful Art Nouveau show three years ago, the exhibition, sponsored by Ernst & Young, brings together some 300 defining examples of Deco art, design and fashion (27 March-20 July). If Art Nouveau may by described as a feminine aesthetic—graceful, sinuous lines —Art Deco is its masculine counterpoint: angular, heavy, sophisticated and self-indulgent. The pieces on show are astonishing in the ruggedness of their materials: wardrobes covered in sharkskin, tabletops made of crushed eggshells, and detailing in chrome, bakelite, onyx, platinum and white gold. This masculinity is born out in the women’s fashion of the time: bobbed hair and straight waistlines (there will be examples of clothes designers such as Jeanne Lanvin, Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaperelli and Jeanne Paquin). Even depictions of women are beefed up by Art Deco painters, such as Tamara de Lempicka, their necks and ankles thickened (below, Jean Dupas “Les Perruches”, 1925, which hung in Ruhlmann’s salon).


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