This month, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) will be presenting a fascinating exhibition called 'Putting on the Glitz'; exploring Art Deco using vintage photographs from the RIBA British Architectural Library Photographs Collection.
The show includes over a hundred images of Art Deco exteriors and interiors in Britain from cinemas, hotels, restaurants and iconic buildings - the Midland Hotel in Morecambe and the Daily Express building in London - to lesser known ones such as Conchita Supervia’s flat in Lowndes Square, London and a fish and chip shop in Sunderland.
The images not only show the evolution of design, but also of photography - and of the relationship between the two.
A heady cocktail of many different sources, Art Deco emphasized geometrical abstraction, streamlining and also floral motifs. It captured the hedonistic spirit of an age determined to escape the harsh realities of the Depression.
Its use of new reflective materials such as chromium and exploitation of innovative lighting methods such as neon, afforded photographers dramatic new possibilities – a trend hastened by the advent of Modernist photography which further encouraged photographers such as Dell & Wainwright, John Maltby and Herbert Felton to become more expressive.
The exhibition's curator, Robert Elwall, says:
“While Art Deco’s effect on the decorative arts has been copiously documented, its role in British architecture has been less explored. To Modernist architects of the 1930s Art Deco was anathema, a bastardization of their credo, and many later historians have accepted this judgement.
In addition, the fact that Art Deco was often applied to building types that were necessarily transient has tended to mask how ubiquitous it actually was. This exhibition aims to redress the balance by exploring Art Deco’s mass appeal and enduring popularity."
The exhibition runs until the 26th of November at Gallery 2, RIBA, 66 Portland Place, London, and entry is free.