Tuesday, March 3, 2009





Art Deco 1910 – 1939
28 June – 5 Oct 08
National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) Melbourne winter Masterpiece.[1]Looking into the future [they] could see science, industrialization, urbanization, economic growth and political interaction worldwide. These were the notions of the world greatest thinkers and scholars of the 19th and 20th century. The industrial revolution in England rapidly spread across Europe and the United States and ultimately across the world due to colonialism. Among the discoveries of this revolution; machinery, plastic, automobile manufacturing were some of the predecessors of tools that have become an integral part of our daily existence in the global society such as radio, telephone, electric light, computers, etc.
According to history lessons; this revolution did not go down smoothly because with great ideas came wealth and with wealth came power and that lead to the ultimate greed and as a result war became inevitable, resulting in 1914 – 1918 war followed by World War II which claimed its undying mark globally.
During this pivotal time in history the artists were also present and as their trade required; they made their comment/point through varied media.

The 19th and 20th century introduced great schools of art with such movements as Modernism, Impressionism, Avant-Garde, Expressionism; Fauvism, Futurism, Surrealism, Art Deco is no exception as one of those movements which became a platform for the artists to make their comment on the current sociopolitical stance.

It gave me such pleasure to be able to attend an exhibition; Art Deco 1910 – 1939 at NGV last week. Every year for the past five years Melbourne has hosted some of the world acclaimed shows. Among the previous landmarks were: Picasso: Love and War in 2006, Dutch Masters in 2005, Impressionists in 2004 to name but a few.

With its glamour and streamlined products, Art Deco chose to make its mark in a positive manner that celebrated the future possibilities of Industrialization. Lead by pioneers such as Coco Channel, Paul Colin, Josephine Baker, Jeanne Lanvin and others,Art Deco exudes elegance and proves how people celebrated life amidst the depression of war. The movement showcased art objects as an essential luxury that the elite society could not afford to be without.
This idea was encapsulated in Paris Exposition of 1925 - International artists were invited to participate in this grandeur exhibition and the idea was to emphasise art and design as a necessary luxury for the society and to uphold Paris as the world’s capital for lavish items.
Art Deco presented functionality and commemoration of design in a glamorous [2]fashion evident from the automobile to plastic cased radios to elegant evening garb and mostly the way to reach exotic destinations in the grand luxury liners and streamlined trains.
Sourcing from Africa, Egypt, Japan and other movements of the century, the collision of ideas and references made Art Deco stand out.

Gyrating vigorously in her little banana skirt, Josephine Baker became the epitome of the Exotic reference in Paris at the time. With her unstoppable shimmies and the swirls within her banana skirt, Baker represented the ultimate Avant-Garde. She was able to embrace and subvert the stereotype while sexually liberating the female body. The movements of her body suggested the rush of the female body in a male’s position. She also created the disturbance of the European ballet equilibrium. This is the power that art has and to this day those with the capability of rocking the boat remain at the fore of their game.

There is so much to say about this particular exhibition but one thing is for sure…next time you touch your iphone screen and shuffle through your ipod while gearing up for a cruise controlled drive under the electric street lights think of those who saw all those possibilities and say a silent thank you. Visit the gallery on http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/

[1] Image details: VICTORIAN RAILWAYS (publisher)
Australia 1856–1976
The Victorian Railways present The Spirit of Progress 1937
booklet: colour photolithographs, letterpress, 12 pages, cardboard cover, stapled binding
20.8 x 26.8 cm (closed)
Museum Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 2005

[2] Denham MACLAREN (designer)
England 1903–1989
Armchair (c.1930)
glass, metal, zebra skin
68. 0 x 57.0 x 85.0 cm
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Accessioned, 1979 (W.26-1979)
© V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London