MADRID.- This is both an exhibition on the decorative arts, but at the same something else. It includes outstanding examples of works that fall into that category but it has been very precisely devised and organised to challenge the now outdated separation - both too inflexible and too simplistic to be valid - between the fine and the decorative or applied arts that is typical of our modern aesthetic consciousness, which is museum-oriented and modern in the strict sense of the term. The present exhibition aims to question the almost total absence of Art Deco in the history of modern art, its manuals and curatorial practice and to champion (as happened with various exemplary cases relating to the Art Deco revival of the 1970s) not only the obvious beauty of this style but also the significance and cultural and artistic complexity of its uniquely modern character.
The style now known as Art Deco was an alternative to the avant-garde, implying a modernism that was more pragmatic and ornamental than utopian and functionalist. Eventually it became the great style of the modern taste and aspirations that were so characteristic of western societies and capitalism in the early decades of the 20th century.
Modern Taste. Art Deco in Paris, 1910-1935 is structured into eight chronological and thematic sections which together narrate a phenomenon that is as fascinating at it is unknown. Including more than 350 examples of painting, sculpture, furniture, fashion, jewellery, perfumery, film, architecture, stained-glass, ceramics, lacquer and goldsmiths work in addition to textiles, book-bindings, photographs, drawings, plans, architectural models, advertising posters and magazines, the exhibition combines reconstructions and recreations that reveal the modern taste and the atmosphere of a period that is both extremely difficult to capture but also notably present in contemporary culture.
Many of the works on display, loaned from more than fifty public and private collections in Europe and the United States, fall into two particular categories: they are either important and little-known works by celebrated artists and designers, or important works by names largely unfamiliar to the general public. In total, the exhibition features the work of 122 artists, artist-decorators, designers, couturiers, interior designers, architects, craftsmen and ensembliers whose works articulate a discourse that locates the origins of Art Deco in Paris in the first decade of the 20th century, reassesses Cubism as one of its sources and offers a vision of the luxuriousness and functionalism of French interiors in the 1920s. The exhibition then focuses on the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels modernes held in Paris in 1925, presenting a carefully selected group of objects produced to satisfy the new demand for items that encouraged consumption and the creation of new the emotional, physical and intellectual habits which Art Deco introduced into fashion, perfumery, accessories and decorative objects in the 1920s and 1930s.
Modern Taste. Art Deco in Paris, 1910-1935 also focuses on the presence of the exotic in Art Deco, particularly in relation to the Colonial Exhibition held in Paris in 1931. It continues up to the 1930s when the styles distinctive modernity combined and fused with the new forms evolved by Charlotte Perriand, Le Corbusier and Eileen Grey that are habitually identified with Modernism, a movement from which Art Deco has been curiously and unjustly excluded.