Le Style Moderne

Review of New Art Deco Show by Mrs. Parker

Hello there all you babes of jazz. The summer has really flown. I was busy sunning my pearls in Antibes but made sure I got back in time for the opening of the big Art Deco show at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Friends, you must go. It is absolutely the bee’s knees. Most of the items in the exhibit are from the V&A (that’s the Victoria and Albert Museum in London), where the exhibit originated, and boy, is it worth the price of admission.

The expression, Art Deco, I learned (yes, I stopped long enough to read the intro to the exhibit before heading for the jewelry), wasn’t coined until the 1960s. Before that, flappers and sheiks referred to it as Moderne, Le Style Moderne, Jazz Moderne or Streamlined. Whatever the expression, it was just some of the best looking stuff to come out of the 20th century.

The exhibit opens with a painting by that darling Tamara de Lempicka—“Jeune fille en vert (Young girl in green)”—who looks as cool as a cucumber and strikingly like Mrs. Parker, if I do say so myself.

Jeune fille en vert (Young Woman in Green) by Tamara de Lempicka, about 1927. She bears a striking resemblance to our Mrs. Parker.

From there it’s just one gorgeous item after another. For example, who would have thought that a sand witch (motor board) could be both modern and stylish at the same time? Or a bloody funeral urn? There was also a charming yellow ice gun for dispensing crushed ice that looked like a cross between a ray gun and a rocket ship.

The designers looked to the past and to other cultures to create these stylish new designs. From ancient Rome, East Asia, South America they found their inspiration. The discovery of King Tut’s tomb in 1922 set off a craze for anything Egyptian, and the exhibit contains some wonderful jewelry and other objects that reflect this exotic influence.

One of my favourite items in the show is a dreamy dress that is embroidered and beaded and made of silk and, our favourite, diamante decoration. The dress is gold with a gorgeous swath of blue in the center containing a dragon—the perfect thing for an evening at the Dingo. There is also the most spiffing French purse made of aluminum and black and red plastic, with just enough room to hold my small flask and lipstick.

In addition, the exhibit recreates whole rooms that were originally installed at the 1925 Paris Exposition, with carpets, wall hangings, everything, allowing your imagination to run wild with thoughts of attending a cocktail party or lying down for a quick nap on a bed shaped like a canoe.

Poster for Paris 1925 International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Art by Robert Bonfils, 1925. Many items from this exhibit are part of the "Art Deco 1910-1939" exhibit.

 

To top off the whole exhibit, the lobby of the museum has a yellow 1935 Auburn 851 Supercharged Speedster just itching to be taken for a ride. Now if I could only ring up Mr. Novello to see if he’s available…

Nancy Beaton as a Shooting Star by Cecil Beaton, 1929. One of the luminous faces in the exhibit.

 

Art Deco 1910–1939 is at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston until January 9, 2005. For more information, visit their website.