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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 March, 2003, 19:50 GMT
Decadent glamour of Art Deco
by James Bregman
BBC News Online

Foyer of the Strand Palace Hotel (1930s) designed by Oliver P Bernard, courtesy of English heritage
The foyer was removed from the Strand Palace Hotel in 1969

A new exhibition at London's Victoria and Albert museum claims to be the most comprehensive display of Art Deco objects staged to date.

The collection's cosmopolitan emphasis is swiftly apparent in the opening Sources section, which illustrates the themes and influences that inspired the Art Deco movement.

Substantial and intriguing in its own right, this introduction is a fine prelude to the centrepiece of Art Deco - an evocative gathering of items from the defining 1925 Paris Exhibition.

This event featured artwork from various countries and a number of these pieces are recreated.

A dramatically curvy chiffonier, part of the French selection, is one of several items that catches the eye although Britain's donation appears to have been distinctly underwhelming.

The next room charts the inter-war spread of art deco in Europe, and it is here that the old foyer of the London Strand Palace Hotel has been reconstructed.

Josephine Baker, Le Tumulte Noir by Paul Colin (1892 - 1985)
Josephine Baker was the star of the Folies Bergère in Paris
This is one of the items that the V&A seems most proud of but objects nearby are more diverting still, particularly in an all-too-brief section on art deco in the East.

A magnificent silver-coated wooden bed from India, constructed for a Maharaja, is the highlight here.

The final Deco World section is the least surprising but arguably most satisfying, delivering a familiar slice of Manhattan skyscrapers, cocktail shakers and a gleaming, no-nonsense Auburn 851 Speedster.

An architectural model of New York's Rockefeller Center also figures prominently, as does an inevitable selection of bold, angular 1930s travel posters.

Numerous themes and motifs recur throughout the exhibition. Disturbingly uncomfortable-looking couches are one, but more ubiquitous still are the tea sets, of which there are more than enough to stage a very sizable WI meeting.

They come in all shapes and sizes from every corner of the globe, ranging from the bizarre to the kitsch.

Despite sprawling to over 300 objects, it is quality not quantity that justifies the £8 entrance fee.

Art Deco is a hugely impressive display that ought to delight art connoisseur and tourist in equal measure.

Art Deco is on at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London from 27 March until 20 July.

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