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Paris/New York: Design Fashion Culture 1925-1940 Opens
Detail of radiator grille from the Squibb Building, New York, designed by Buchman & Kahn, photograph by Sigurd Fischer, c. 1930. Museum of the City of New York, Gift of Kahn and Jacobs, Architects.

NEW YORK.- The cultural love affair and rivalry between two world capitals, New York and Paris, will be explored in a revelatory exhibition opening October 3, 2008, in the new wing at the Museum of the City of New York. Paris/New York: Design Fashion Culture 1925-1940, on view through February 22, 2009, will trace a balance of power that shifted to New York, which was then emerging from the shadow of its sophisticated trans-Atlantic counterpart and breaking new ground in such fields as architecture, fashion, cuisine, interior design, music, and other areas that had come to represent la belle France. As Paris entered a “state of transition between a vanished past and an uncertain future,” according to historian Tyler Stovall, New York became a city of progress, expansion, and modernity. A catalog, published by the Monacelli Press/Random House and edited by Museum of the City of New York curator of architecture and design Donald Albrecht, who organized Paris/New York: Design Fashion Culture 1925-1940, will accompany the exhibition; the lavishly-illustrated book includes essays by Jean-Louis Cohen, Richard Guy Wilson, Jody Blake, Kenneth E. Silver, Marilyn F. Friedman, and other leading scholars, and will be available at the Museum Shop for $50.00.

Paris/New York: Design Fashion Culture 1925-1940 will reveal New York’s devotion to Paris as the city sought to embrace all that was stylish, sophisticated and chic, at the same time that Paris was infatuated with New York emblems of modernity such as skyscrapers and jazz, and both cities engaged in an overseas dialogue of ideas, aesthetics, trends, and other cultural forces. Highlights of the exhibition will include:

Stylish furniture retailed through New York department stores in the mid-1920s, which was imitative of but less expensive than their Parisian antecedents—original, elegant, and sophisticated designs by Léon Jallot (1874-1967) and Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann (1879-1933)

An historic portfolio of reproductions, ca. 1931, of schemes submitted for an architectural competition that took place in Paris, the goal of which was to create the Voie Triomphale (Triumphal Way) connecting the Arc de Triomphe with La Defense; the plans were never realized due to the Depression and World War II, however the prints reveal that as early as 1930 the French had conceived today’s La Defense as an ensemble of New York City-style skyscrapers

Alfred Auguste Janniot’s (1889-1969) plaster model of part of the iconic bronze relief above the doors of Rockefeller Center’s La Maison Française, a synthesis of New York’s distinctive set-back skyscraper aesthetic and Paris’s historic Ecole des Beaux Arts tradition, which is also visible in the Center’s axial planning and lush gardens

Jean Dunand’s (1877-1942) and Jean Lambert-Rucki’s (1888-1967) 1926 lacquer panel depicting jazz icon Josephine Baker (1906-1975), a prime example of how New York’s popular culture found its way into elite Parisian decorative art

A recontextualization of Pavel Tchelitchew (1898-1957), one of a handful of so-called neo-Romantics, which was the first group of Parisian artists to emigrate to New York, bringing with them a stylish form of modernism. Tchelitchew’s drawings for Vogue magazine, and his rarely-exhibited painting from the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, Hide and Seek (1940-42), will be on view alongside his gouaches for Errante, which was one of George Balanchine’s (1904-1983) first ballets performed in America, and which was famously photographed by George Platt Lynes (1907-1955)

Dresses, shoes, and jewelry designed by iconic figures who were creating a distinct New York City style in fashion while liberating America from the exclusive dictates of Paris, including Mrs. George Schlee (1899-1989), who, as “Valentina” in the 1930s and 40s designed for a small group of society women and stage stars; the Chicago-born Mainbocher (1891-1976), who returned from wartime Paris to open a salon in New York and helped to elevate the fashion sensibilities of his native country; and Dorothy Shaver (1893-1959), the innovative vice president of Lord & Taylor, who in the 1930s aggressively promoted a distinctly American style in fashion

Menus from the French restaurant at the 1939/40 New York World’s Fair and its successor Le Pavillon, as well as food-critic Craig Claiborne’s (1920-2000) illuminating graphic depicting a “family tree” of Le Pavillon’s impact on New York restaurants (i.e., the Four Seasons and La Caravelle) and mass-market purveyors such as Howard Johnson’s and Campbell’s Soup

A stunning bracelet created by Van Cleef & Arpels, which first opened in New York in the late 1920s, feeding New York’s appetite for French luxury goods, then closed as a result of the Depression, only to reopen a salon at the 1939 World’s Fair, and in 1942 on Fifth Avenue, when the principals emigrated to New York in the wake of World War II.

Paris/New York: Design Fashion Culture 1925-1940 will feature drawings, photographs, plans, and other material documenting two international expositions: the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris and the 1939/40 World’s Fair. These spectacular exhibitions bracketed one of the most intense and influential chapters in the love affair between two world capitals. During this interwar period, the exchange between Paris and New York was never simple, comprising in equal measure admiration and envy, respect and competition. New Yorkers began to shed their feelings of New World inferiority in the face of Paris’s vaunted cultural traditions, and Paris increasingly looked to New York as the fresh, vibrant center of modernity, best represented by jazz and skyscrapers built of steel and stone or imagined by artists, illustrators, and movie-makers. By the beginning of World War II, New York had created its own fusion of art, commerce, and industry, transforming itself from a city of mere national stature into an international capital that rivaled and in some spheres surpassed Paris in worldwide cultural influence.

The exhibition is organized by Donald Albrecht, Curator of Architecture and Design at the Museum of the City of New York. The exhibition and accompanying catalog are designed by Pure + Applied.

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