October 06, 2018
Art Deco had been the epitome of its era, flourishing in France in the years between the two World Wars of the twentieth century. Inclinations towards encounters with the arts and culture of regions outside of Europe presented a significant influence on the aesthetics and formative sensibilities of Art Deco. Such as the Ballets Russe’s appearance in 1909, Josephine Baker who sailed to France in 1925, the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922, Citroen’s La Croisierie Noire and La Croisierie Jaune expeditions with automobiles travelling north to south across Africa and Asia for the first time, and the L'Exposition colonial internationale at the Bois de Vicennes in 1931, various topics had enlivened the streets of Paris.
What kind of formative aspects of these distant lands did the artists and designers of the time direct their attention to? It was indeed the field of fashion that had been the first to turn its eyes to their value. Jacques Doucet, recognized as one of the most prominent fashion designers in Paris was a patron for avant-garde artists like Picasso, yet at the same time had sought innovative value in the formative elements of African art. Master French couturier Paul Poiret held his soiree la mille et deuxième nuit (The Thousand and Second Night) with guests in costumes inspired by Middle Eastern dress, thus focusing on the extraordinary nature of this culture and leading to new developments in colors and styles.
Japonism, or an interest towards Asia as a whole, came to be reinterpreted as a catalyst for modernity. In the midst of such movements was the presence of Japanese artists such as Seizou Sugawara who had trained architect and designer Eileen Gray and designer Jean Dunand in the traditional techniques of lacquer, as well as the ivory sculptor Eugénie O’kin.
The exhibition introduces approximately 85 works including dynamic paintings and sculptures that draw inspiration from Africa and Asia, centering on those housed in the museum collections of the Musée des Années 30, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, and the Mobilier National, which will be presented in Japan for the first time.