In 1925, Paris played host to one of the greatest exhibitions of Art Deco work ever seen. The grandly titled Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, drew a huge audience of over 16 million, and brought the movement to the wider world.
Colour woodblock poster for the Paris 1925 Exhibition, by Robert Bonfils
Many European countries submitted works of art, but the contributions from Paris shone, placing its artists, designers and architects firmly at the forefront the Art Deco movement. Shaped by France's ambitions immediately following World War I, the exhibition aimed to showcase French goods and taste as being the most refined, and it did not fail to achieve the impact it was seeking to make. High fashion, exquisite artefacts and all manner of decorative arts ensured that French tastes and their flair for luxury were embraced by its international visitors.
The Hôtel d'un Collectionneur
One of the most visited exhibits at the Exposition was the pavilion, Hôtel d'un Collectionneur, which was created and decorated by the finest Art Deco designers, from the building’s architect Pierre Patout to the famous furniture maker, Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann.
It was Ruhlmann who rallied other great Art Deco artists to decorate and dress the suite of rooms for the exhibition house, including Antoine Bourdelle, Edgar Brandt, Jean Dupas, and the lacquer craftsman, Jean Dunand. Between them they produced a remarkable building which epitomised Art Deco, articulating the style – the combination of tradition with innovation, imagination and mechanisation, artisan work and machine production. It was a sensation. The rich bold colouring was fresh and modern, the elegant styling a nod to tradition. Art Deco produced both high art and affordable art, and the public loved it. Its Grand Salon has been judged to be one of the greatest achievements of the French Art Deco period.
Iconic Art Deco Works
Ruhlmann and Dunand's masterpiece, the black lacquer, pilaster-framed ‘Donkey and Hedgehog’ cabinet was the centrepiece of the Grand Salon. You can see it in the photo above, which gives a good indication of its size.
Ruhlmann lovingly inlaid the stylised donkey and hedgehog, designed by Jean Lambert-Rucki, with his customary care and artistry. A collector paid over $1m for it in 1988. The canvas by Jean Dupas, Les Perruches, (The Parrots), another centrepiece of the Grand Salon, has also become an iconic Art Deco image.
Paris Art Deco Today
You can still see the legacy of Paris’s past Art Deco glory in the streets and buildings by simply wandering around the city. Try Avenue Junot in Montmartre for some beautiful Deco doorways. Edif Piaf lived here for a while. There are a number of buildings and restaurants that should be on every Deco lover’s ‘must see’ list.
Stay in the contemporary Hôtel d'un Collectionneur, near to the Arc De Triomphe, which is a Deco lover’s dream.
Eat at an Art Deco restaurant, such as Charlot, Place de Clichy, or Le Relais Plaza. Art Deco restaurants in Paris tend to be beautifully preserved and cherished by a culture-focused city.
Charlot Roi des Coquillages, 18e
For Art Deco architecture, you have a wide choice. Visit Palais de Chaillot, Piscine Butte-aux-Cailles, Fondation Corbusier, Piscine Pontoise Quartier Latin, Rue Mallet-Stevens and Les Jardins du Trocadero.
Maison Mallet, Rue Mallet-Stephens
These are just a small selection of the Deco landmarks in Paris, and the real enthusiast could plan an entire week around visiting them. Collectors should visit the antique markets of Les Puces de Saint-Ouen/ Clignancourt (140 rue des Rosiers, 93400 Saint Ouen, metro: Porte de Clignancourt), and the huge Marché de Porte de Vanves (metro: Porte de Vanves) You will find Art Deco treasures, but don’t be afraid to haggle with traders. Visit the French Art Deco specialist shop for some exceptional items.
Paris is a Mecca for Art Deco enthusiasts who come from all over the world to get a taste of what it was that made the Exposition Internationale in 1925 such an internationally acclaimed event. They seldom leave disappointed.