The exhibition

Art Deco on the world stage

Laquered smoking room, Ambassade Francaise

Laquered smoking room, ‘Ambassade Française’
‘Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes’, Paris 1925
Designer: Jean Dunand
Copyright: RIBA Library Books and Periodicals Collection

Several architects were involved in the design of the various pavilions and the landscaping of the site. However, a predominant style characterised the majority of the buildings, a style that was to have a huge impact on the European and American architecture of the following decade and was defined by its contemporaries as 'jazz-modern', 'zig-zag' or 'moderne'. 'Modernity' was the main theme of the exhibition, as required by the exhibition charter, which highlighted the need for 'new inspiration' and 'real originality'. To this end architects were encouraged to collaborate with craftsmen and artists. The temporary nature of the buildings, destined to last only six months, allowed architects the freedom to experiment with more radical architectural forms and with new materials such as laminate and plastic. The resulting style, also influenced by avant-garde movements like Cubism and Futurism and a variety of non-European sources such as the art of tribal Africa and the Far East, was characterised by playfulness, exuberance and colour. The 1925 exhibition did not mark the 'birth' of this style, but rather presented it for the first time as the language of modernity on the world stage.

The exposition proved to be extremely successful, as confirmed by the visitor figures - around 16 million - recorded between the end of April and the end of October. In 1966, more than four decades later, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris organised an exhibition called ‘Les Années '25': Art Déco / Bauhaus / Stjil / Esprit Nouveau’. This shortened version of the name of the 1925 exhibition was used two years later by the historian Bevis Hiller for the title of his book ‘Art Deco of the 20s and 30s’, and by 1970 the term had entered common use to describe the style fostered by the exposition, which is now widely regarded as the event that established the triumph of Art Deco.

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