Cooper Hewitt 'Jazz Age' Exhibition

Image courtesy of Cooper Hewitt.

Image courtesy of Cooper Hewitt.

A sweeping move to modernity was in the air during the Roaring Twenties and I had the delightful opportunity to explore it at the new Cooper Hewitt exhibition 'The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s’.

Over 400 pieces of furniture, textiles, decorative objects, fashion and of course, jewelry, illustrate the evolution from traditional to modern that touched each aspect of life in this era. Tastes in the United States were being influenced by new European design movements, the discovery of King Tut’s tomb in 1922, increasing travel and new freedoms for women.

The term ‘Art Deco’ is not found anywhere in the exhibition, as it wasn’t used at the time. It was coined in the 1960s, distilled from Arts Decoratifs, which launch internationally with the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes fair held in Paris in 1925. Reverberations of the style reached the corners of earth, as you can find ‘Art Deco’ buildings from the 1920s and 30s on each continent, and its influence was felt on fashion, jewelry, interior and industrial design.

There is an extensive selection of jewels brought together from a variety of public and private collections, a number of which were displayed at the seminal 1925 Paris Exposition. From the tail end of the Belle Epoque style, to the classic geometrical shapes associated today with ‘Art Deco', to the austerity of Cubism, examples are abound of design exploration from European and American jewelry houses.

Running concurrently and occupying its own room is 'Jeweled Splendors of the Art Deco Era: The Prince and Princess Sadruddin Aga Khan Collection’. Composed of 114 of the most exquisite jewelled objects, the collection began with a single Cartier box given as a gift. Each subsequent special occasion added to the collection that includes vanity cases, timepieces, compacts and cigarette cases made between 1920 and 1935. The thorough catalogue contains many notes about each piece, as well as wonderful photographs.

This must-see exhibition is running at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City until August 20, 2017, after which it will move to the Cleveland Museum of Art.

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