Revisiting Art Deco

The Art Deco period has always simply attracted me. During the 1920s, furnishings and design took on a very distinctive look, it became known as Art Deco, a term stemming from the Paris Exhibition of 1925. The twenties were the last period when art importantly affected every element of the environment—specifically, dress and clothing design, jewelry design, book design, lighting design, furniture design and, perhaps most stunningly of all, architecture. No other aesthetic movement had such an influence—either in the thirties or in any other decade, down to our own. Also, the twenties constituted the greatest period of prosperity the modern world had ever know and the possibilities for lavish invention and craftsmanship were rampant. For me, Deco elicits nostalgia blended with a harmony of various styles and new sensibilities from an era since gone. Deco is my favorite period of design because of its decorative contrast of traditional values with innovation. Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann and Jules Leleuand and their use of exotic woods is simply beautiful! 

To fill one’s home with Art Deco works by designers such as Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann, Jean Dunand, Pierre Chareau, and Eileen Gray may be the privilege of the few. To do as much for one’s workplace is a rarity. New York financier Steven A. Greenberg would not have it otherwise. There are, to be sure, variances. The intonation of Greenberg’s Park Avenue penthouse, with its spare and understated placement of furnishings and objects, its discreet lighting, its hushed atmosphere and pristine elegance, is in decided contrast to his striking offices atop the RCA Building, itself an Art Deco masterpiece. In his apartment, the decorative 1920s resound with a certain theatrical éclat. The bold, highly stylized paintings by Jean Dupas succinctly harmonize with the delicately patterned screens, tables, boxes, and vases by Jean Dunand, which in turn blend with the linear perfections of Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann. Sumptuous in detail and consummate in craftsmanship, the pieces by Ruhlmann comprise two conference suites. They all point to a period when modernist furniture posed new questions vis-à-vis interior decor.

“ I dream of a new age of curiosity. We have the technical means for it; the desire is there; the things to be known are infinite; the people who can employ themselves at this task exist. Why do we suffer? From too little: from channels that are too narrow, skimpy, quasi-monopolistic, insufficient. There is no point in adopting a quasi- protectionist attitude, to prevent 'bad' information from invading and suffocating the 'good'. Rather, we must simply multiply the paths and the possibilities of comings and goings."

Philosopher Michel Foucault