Art Déco, 1925

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Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Temporary Exhibition Gallery

The evocation of the Art Deco period in France, through theInternational Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Artsfrom 1925, is widely justified by the confrontation between a moderate modernism and a more revolutionary front characterizing the Pavilion Doors and the formal vocabulary of the period decorators. The seven months during which the international exhibition was shown highlighted an underlying duality that came to characterize decorative arts until World War II.  The main purpose of that Exhibition, as defined by its Organizing Committee in a report dated from 1915, excluded all and any reference to tradition. In the formal plan, this initiative should present itself exclusively through “Modern Art”, a kind of artistic “Renaissance” which, from the social point of view, would create a response “both to the more modest needs and to the luxury whims”.  Paradoxically, from the study of the works shown in the different French Pavilions – furniture, decorative art objects, painting and sculpture – results a diversified set of pieces where a very particular modernism and a dominant neoclassicism, more exuberant than simple, coexist.  The purpose of the exhibition, to be presented at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, curated by Chantal Bizot and Dany Sautot, the invited experts, is based on this ambiguity – a “singular unit” – gathering only works from the best artists and the most famous manufactures and ateliers, selected for the 1925 Exhibition. Many of the works presented there integrate the current exhibition, such as Spring, from Janniot, a composition expressly created for the Ruhlmann Pavilion(Hôtel d’un riche Collectionneur), acquired by Calouste Gulbenkian in 1939.  The exhibition includes furniture pieces from Ruhlmann, Leleu, Groult and Dunand, as well as silver and gold ware from Christofle, jewellery from Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier, Chaumet and Boucheron, ceramics from Jourdain and Braquemond, porcelains from Rapin, paintings from Le Corbusier, Léger and Laurencin, sculptures from Janniot and Joseph Bernard, glassware from Baccarat and Lalique, textiles from Dufrêne and Miklos, and also illustrated and hard-cover books (Schmied, Dunand and Legrain), from foreign public and private collections, mainly French, but also from national collections, including the Calouste Gulbenkian Collection. Between the tradition myth and the quest for progress, the setting of the exhibition will allow for a stylistic reading of the works whilst trying to enhance similarities and differences. The catalogue, reproducing all pieces, will include texts which are to be understood as reference. The exhibition will provide a better knowledge of an artistic period of significance and which was largely accepted and generated much curiosity towards the public.

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