Paris Exposition des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (1925)

Postcard of Paris Exposition des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes

Paris Exposition des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes was a vital exhibition that gave its name to ‘Art Deco,’ a rich vein of design across a wide range of applications, from cinemas to ceramics, textiles and tableware, and graphics to graphs.

Aims of Exhibition

The 1925 international exhibition’s main aim in Paris was to restore French decorative arts, fashion, and luxury goods to the top of the design and decorative arts.  

Paris 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes

Poster by Robert Roquin

The First World War interrupted any plans for an exhibition. Immediately after the end of the war and due primarily to economic uncertainties, the proposed exhibition was moved back to 1925.

In line with promoting its national interests, France dominated the 1925 exhibition, supported by the Ministries of Commerce and Fine Arts, French manufacturers, decorative artists, craftsmen and retailers. 

Absentees

The majority of exhibiting nations were European, although Germany was not invited to participate until it was too late to make a valuable contribution. The United States was another prominent absentee, refusing because it had insufficient original designs to view. But it was more likely that the rejection would have economic motives.

Spirit of Exposition

The spirit of the 1925 exhibition was epitomised by the vision of the leading designer of luxury goods and cabinetmaker Jacques Émile Ruhlmann. The luxurious, brightly coloured interiors of his Pavilion of the Wealth Collector featured the work of many top contemporary French artisans, distinguished by the use of expensive materials and high-quality decorative motifs. His furniture designs were influenced by French artisanal work traditions and an unmistakably modern feel.

25 Room Exhibit

Prominent in the 25 ‘Reception rooms and Private Apartments of a French Embassy’ were the influential Societé des Artises Décorateurs (SAD) works. Architect Charles Plumet designed the display. Pierre Chareau, Maurice Dufrene and Jean Dunand, Paul Follot and André Groult, René Herbst and Francis Jourdain were among the designers who worked the exotic setting prominently.

French luxury design on display

Many leading luxury companies, such as Christofle for gold and Baccarat and Lalique for glass, had prominent exhibits, the latter with a striking fountain designed for Lalique in its pavilion front. The works of Lalique were also seen elsewhere in the French exhibitions, including in his Sèvres Porcelain dining room with its glass mosaic walls. The pavilions of Paris’ leading art studios – Studium Louver (by Étienne Kohlmann and Maurice Matet), of the Maurice Dufrène, of the Galeries Lafayette, Pomone (under Paul Follot) of Bon Marché and Primavera (under René Guilleré), of the Grand Magazines du Printemps – were further commercially established. The pavilions were also located in the decorative artwork studios. In the promotion of French design to more bourgeois audiences, many shops on the Rue des Boutiques in the Pont‐Alexandre III and Esplanade des Invalides also played a key role.

Modernism

In strict opposition to this luxurious spirit, Le Corbusier’s Pavillon de l’Esprit Nouveau was made of artwork whose modernist, machine-age forms fitted with a vision of design firmly embedded in the 20th century. Embedded in a rational perspective, the Pavillon was marked by its lack of decoration and expensive artwork and its dedication to modern technologies, new materials and industrial aesthetics.

Interior of the Dutch Pavilion “Exposition des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes”, Paris, 1925

Furniture

The simple forms of standardised Thonet chairs and Le Corbusier’s very own designs, including the application of tubular steel, were among the furniture items shown.

Armchair for the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris

Armchair made from mahogany and leather. The armrests are finished with ivory medallions.

Russian Exhibit

Many foreign pavilions were built for the Paris Exhibition in 1925. Constructivist USSR Pavilion, designed by Konstantin Melnikov, with avant-garde furnishings and settings by Alexander Rodchenko and others, was remarkably modern in spirit. In the USSR and several national pavilions, indigenous, vernacular and ‘folk’ art were displayed, though with a contemporary edge.

Polish Exhibit

This included many of Poland’s Pavilion Cracow School inspired contents, such as Zofia Stryjenska’s decorative frescoes of country festivals and Józef Czajkowski’s office’s vernacular-inspired interior and the office chair.

In many of the displays and objects in the Czechoslovak and Austrian pavilions, the latter including the ethos of folk art pervading Christa Ehrlich’s painted floral motifs inside the Salle des Vitrines, similar trends were also evident.

Scandinavian Design

Other essential trends also emerged in the 1925 exhibition, particularly the neo-classical tinged grace and elegance of Scandinavian design. Although the contributions from Finland and Norway were modest, Sweden and Denmark had their national pavilions and exhibitions in the Grand Palais. In particular, a favourite of Swedish furniture was given to the AB Nordiska company by Gunner Asplund and by Carl Malmsten, the Simon Gate glass for Orrefors, and to ceramics by Edward Hald and Wilhelm Kåge for Gustavsberg. The extensive Swedish design and architecture exhibitions at the 1930 Stockholm Exhibition further attracted this interest.

Italian Design

The Italian contributions to the Paris Exhibition reflect two Italian design trends: the gentle innovation of designers like Gio Ponti, whose work led to an elegance that was recognised by Italian designs in the 1930s and 1940s and Fortunato Depero’s Futurist inclinations.

British Design

The contribution of British design in Paris was undermined by the lack of interest in their markets in the British Empire on British manufacturers. In 1924 and 1925, the British Empire Exhibition in Wembley opened for a second season; they tended to avoid the more aesthetical and economically competitive European market.

Influence on Twentieth Century Design

Nevertheless, the exhibition’s influence in the industrialised world has been significant and widely felt, supported by many visitors and widespread international publicity, criticisms and even official reports. This included the appointment of a substantial commission to report developments in European decorative arts and design by Herbert Hoover, US Secretary of Trade. In the USA, the decorative trends seen in 1925 have been subsumed into the alternative modernisation of an up-to-date design vocabulary using contemporary materials, colour, decoration and metaphors.

Sources

Paris Exposition des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels …. https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803100306524

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