Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes

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The Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts) was a World’s fair held in Paris, France from April to October 1925.

The term Art Deco was derived by shortening the words Arts Décoratifs in the title of this exposition.

Artistic creation in the années folles in France is marked by this event, when on this occasion many ideas of the international avant-garde in the fields of architecture and applied arts were brought together. This major event of the 20s was located between the esplanade of Les Invalides and the entries of the Grand Palais and Petit Palais. It received 4,000 guests at the inauguration on April 28, and thousands of visitors each of the following days.

Émile Antoine Bourdelle Paris 1925 poster
This exhibition generated the term Art Deco to describe designs in terms of a broad decoratively “modern” style, characterized by a streamlined classicism and facetted, crystalline structures, embellished with decorative references to sleek machinery, and recurrent motifs of stylized fountains, gazelles, lightning flashes, “Aztec” motifs and similar repertory, derived in part from Decorative Cubism.

The central body of exhibits seemed to present the fashionable products of the luxury market, a signal that, after the disasters of World War I, Paris still reigned supreme in the arts of design. At the same time, other examples such as the Esprit Nouveau pavilion and the Soviet pavilion were distinctly not decorative, they contained furnishings and paintings but these works, including the pavilions, were spare and modern. The modern architecture of Le Corbusier and Konstantin Melnikov attracted both criticism and admiration for their architecture without ornamentation. Criticism focused on the ‘nakedness’ of these structures, compared to other pavilions at the exhibition, such as the Pavilion of the Collector by the ébéniste-decorator Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann. These modernist works were integral projects of their own specific movements, and the term Art Deco is used elsewhere, and for other works at the exposition with more accuracy.

Le Corbusier’s Esprit Nouveau pavilion attracted attention for reasons in addition to its modernism, such as his vast theoretical project that the pavilion embodied. L’Esprit Nouveau was the name of the Rive Gauche journal in which Le Corbusier first published excerpts of his book Vers une architecture, and within this pavilion he exhibited his Plan Voisin for Paris. The Plan Voisin, named for aviation pioneer Gabriel Voisin, was a series of identical 200 meter tall skyscrapers and lower rectangular apartments, that would replace a large section of central Paris in the Rive Droite. Although this was never built, the pavilion was and represented a single modular apartment within the broader urban theoretical project.

Aleksandr Rodchenko Lenin workers club in Paris 1925
Aleksandr Rodchenko Lenin workers club in Paris 1925

Notable examples of Russian constructivism were the Alexander Rodchenko’s Lenin Workers’ Club (Aleksandr Rodchenko), and Konstantin Melnikov designed Soviet pavilion. Student work from Vkhutemas won several prizes, and Melnikov’s pavilion won the Grand Prix. Due to continued national tensions after the first world war, Germany was not invited. Austria however contributed Frederick Kiesler’s City in Space exhibit to house the Viennese documentation, this exhibit was commissioned by Josef Hoffman.

Its origins begin in elements of Art Nouveau, particularly the formal geometry, Cubism and abstract art, primitivism, modernist architecture, Russian revolutionary art, jazz music, American films, especially musicals, and even modern methods of transport.

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