The first major museum exhibition to focus on American taste in design during the exhilarating years of the 1920s, “The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s” will debut this spring at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City. Co-organized by Cooper Hewitt and the Cleveland Museum of Art, the exhibition will examine a broad spectrum of design showing the multidimensional aspect of American style in this decade. The galleries will be filled with extraordinary jewelry, fashion, furniture, textiles, tableware, paintings, posters, wallcoverings and architecture, demonstrating the popularity of bold colors and forms that characterize this age. On view at Cooper Hewitt April 7 through Aug. 20, 2017, the Cleveland Museum of Art will present “The Jazz Age” from Sept. 30, 2017, through Jan. 14, 2018.
“Exploring the significant impact of European influences, the explosive growth of American cities, avant-garde artistic movements, new social mores and the role of technology, ‘The Jazz Age’ will seek to define the American spirit of the period,” said Cooper Hewitt Director Caroline Baumann. “Through an innovative interpretive presentation on the third-floor Barbara and Morton Mandel Design Gallery and a portion of the second floor, the exhibition will delight the eye, draw connections across media and present a new narrative for art and design in this vibrant era.”
Through a rich array of 400 works drawn from both public and private collections, the exhibition will explore all aspects of design from day to night: architecture, interior design, decorative art, jewelry and fashion, music and film. An apt metaphor for the new language of design during this period, jazz came to define an era of innovation and modernity—the Jazz Age—capturing the pulse and rhythm of the American attitude.
A brilliant age for art and design, the 1920s saw talent and craftsmanship, urbanity and experimentation flow back and forth across the Atlantic. Significant influences from abroad include the Paris 1925 Exposition des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes; newly transplanted European designers, primarily from Austria and Germany; exhibitions featuring the latest foreign designs; and fashion and jewelry acquired overseas. To these influences were added American architecture, most notably the skyscraper that greatly impressed Americans and Europeans alike. The visitor will be invited to experience this world from an American perspective through six sections exploring objects affected by the purchasing power of new fortunes with new tastes, fueling a demand that prompted an outpouring of design and heralded a new era. The exhibition will be organized into the themes of the Persistence of Traditional “Good Taste,” A New Look for Familiar Forms, Bending the Rules, A Smaller World, Abstraction and Reinvention, and Toward a Machine Age.
Highlights of the significant amount of jewelry on view will be two Cartier pieces owned by Linda Porter, wife of composer Cole Porter, including a colorful “Tutti Frutti” bracelet and a 1926 belt buckle featuring a scarab motif inspired by the 1922 discovery of King Tut’s tomb; a circa 1921 Cartier “Mystery” clock owned by Anna Dodge, so named as the minute and hour hands appear to float; and a stunning diamond bracelet owned by the actress Mae West.
The exhibition is organized by Sarah Coffin, curator and head of product design and decorative arts at Cooper Hewitt and Stephen Harrison, curator of decorative art and design at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
The accompanying 360-page publication, “The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s” will be published by the Cleveland Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press. Featuring hundreds of full-color illustrations, the comprehensive catalog will show how American patronage and design, including the skyscraper, interacted with a mixture of European influences and designers to result in new representations of form, materials and styles. Retail price: $40 softbound/$60 hardbound.