Art Deco, a flexible and decorative art that changed history.
The staple style during the 1920s and 1930s, with its geometrically futuristic linear design, Art Deco was applied in every field, including architecture, furniture, interior design, graphic design, fashion and typography. Its streamlined, simplistic, symmetric, fluid and futuristic design was easily managed and breathable, in contrast to the frilly Edwardian Art Nouveau designs.
It took the world by storm after the 1925 Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (although some claimed that the movement started as early as 1910), influenced by works of Romain de Tirtoff (better known as Erté), historical arts like Aztec, Egyptian and Mesopotamian, and modernist styles like Neoclassical, Art Nouveau, Bauhaus,note Futurist, Cubist and other movements. And its forms went on to every World's Fair from the 20s and 30s, then spread to all over the world.
An underappreciated facet of Art Deco is that it was extremely practical behind the futuristic flair. In furniture and interior design, it was easy to keep clean without a whole lot of effort. A brush would pick up a lot more dirt sweeping across the smooth lines of an Art Deco chair, lamp, or cabinet than it would across one that had tons of nooks and crannies. In cars and locomotives, meanwhile, the streamlining of Art Deco vehicular styling also gave advantages to high-speed performance and fuel economy, which automotive engineers would fully exploit later on.
In the 1930s, a substyle emerged, which emphasizes straighter lines, refined geometric shapes, and mechanic motifs, called "Streamline Moderne".
Although the term Art Déco is commonly used, the term was actually coined in The '60s and The '70s during its resurgence after its popularity declined after World War II. Many hotels and luxury establishments still use Art Deco or a modernized variant of this in their interior and visual design, as the style is closely associated with prosperity and luxury even today.
Often this style is found on Diesel Punk and mostly Raygun Gothic settings. See also Everything Is an iPod in the Future, a more recent style that follows a similarly sleek, minimalistic, modernist design philosophy, but is more likely to incorporate smoothed edges, rounded shapes, and other "organic" curves than Art Deco-style swooping lines and geometric motifs.
Examples that include the art form or is applied about Art Deco:
- The Little King comics use this aesthetic, and the animated cartoons based on the comic by Van Beuren Studios have some of their characters designed like this, in order to match the designs of the original comic. The backgrounds are still standard ink wash paintings, and many of the other characters still use the Van Beuren house style.
- Tony Harris and his successors on Starman gave Opal City a markedly Deco look.
- The Abominable Dr. Phibes is set in the 1920s and has some gorgeous sets, particularly the house interiors of the main characters.
- The New York Superior Court in Bee Movie. It's the spare and American-institutional kind, all sharp, parallel, vertical lines. Materials commonly used in American Deco buildings are also on display, like the jade-green marble interiors.
- The Black Cat features some amazing Art Deco sets and furniture.
- Its parent series didn't have Art Deco so much as the country estate setting has architecture and interior stylings mostly from earlier eras, but the Downton Abbey movie, being set in 1927, has increasingly conspicuous Deco elements, primarily in clothing. Cora wears a dress with bold deco patterns for one.
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, being set in the New York-based American wizarding community in The Roaring '20s, naturally features a lot of Art Deco-inspired set pieces and furniture/prop design. It's easy to imagine the events of The Great Gatsby to be happening in Muggle New York, in parallel with the events of Fantastic Beasts.
- Forbidden Planet, most obviously in Morbias's home, but also seen in the C-57D and the Krell underground.
- The "Ghostbusters building", as explicitly pointed out by Egon. In Real Life it's located at 55 Central Park West; however, the real building is shorter and doesn't have the spire at the top, where the climax takes placethe spire was made using a scale model.
- The titles in most of the promotional materials for The Great Gatsby (2013) are stylized in Art Deco, as is, of course, most of the set and production design.
- In The Hobbit and its sequels, the dwarf kingdom of Erebor, under the Lonely Mountain, takes its design cues from Art Deco as well, with jagged, angular or sharply parallel elements in its sculptures and interior carvings. The design choice may evoke the Dwarves' connection to mining and precious stones, many of which naturally occur in regular, crystalline, geometric shapes.
- The Hunger Games: In the movies, much of the architectural and graphic design style in the Capitol takes inspiration from thisthe buildings emulate the Soviet/Stalinist Deco school, whilst the trains and sleeker skyscrapers are inspired by "utopian" Diesel Punk styles that would not look out of place in an Ayn Rand novel.
- Men in Black 3 has Jay time-jump off the top of the Chrysler Building, a classic example of the style, shown up close with its distinctive sunburst spire and eagle-head motifs.
- Metropolis certainly uses this aesthetic a lot, like in its skyscraper backgrounds and set design, though by no means it uses only this art style. The posters for this are even purer Deco in design. The film, released in 1927, is very much a product of its age.
- The Princess and the Frog uses this style during the "Almost There" musical number.
- Some of the Rich Industries office interiors in Richie Rich, which despite being set in The '90s isn't really surprising given the style's connotations of timeless and relatively simple luxury and opulence. The New York skyscraper it's inside seems more contemporary than originally 1930s though, so it may be a later deco revival.
- The film The Rocketeer had Art Deco leanings in it the design of the Rocketeer costume, and the promotional posters◊ were done in this style.
- Ayn Rand is widely associated with art deco, as the style's bold lines and dramatic ambitions fit nicely with Rand's soaring, grandiloquent style and view of human achievement. (Of note is that some of her books got cover designs by artist Nick Gaetano which are directly based on Deco-style human sculptures and reliefs.)
- The design of the Second Dawn Bunker in The 100 features Art Deco elements, like the posters on the walls and the design of their logo.
- The titular hotel in American Horror Story: Hotel was explicitly designed in an art deco style. It's most noticeable in the hotel's huge, grandiose lobby.
- While the original book version of His Dark Materials is generally regarded as describing its heroine Lyras world as Gaslamp Fantasy in style, the BBC/HBO adaptation goes for a lot of art deco imagery, creating something of a Diesel Punk feel overall.
- Doctor Who: The design team admitted to basing the sandminer sets in "The Robots of Death" on Art Deco.
- The opening titles of Poirot are absolutely pure Art Deco, using a mixture of animation and stage sets with live actors. Poirot's building, Whitehaven Mansions, also counts (being "played" by the Art Deco/Streamline Moderne Florin Court, built 1936); Poirot's flat also has some Art Deco touches in its interior decoration, but isn't 100% consistent in the style.
- The automat diner in Agent Carter is a stunning example of the style, particularly of the Streamline Moderne subset (it is, after all, a diner in a 1940s Period Piece).
- The Lucia State Hospital, the main setting of Ratched, is a study in Art Deco elegance, particularly of the later, simpler, Streamline Moderne style.
- The design of many of the Martian buildings, rocket cars and covers of the adventure booklets in Rocket Age are drawn in an Art Deco style. After all, the setting does takes place in the 1930s.
- The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror attraction at the Disney Theme Parks in California Adventure and Disneyland Paris are built in this style. According to details around the attraction, the building was constructed in 1917 and the story of the ride takes place in 1939.
- The archway entrance to the Universal Studios is done in this style. Several of the street facades at the parks are styled like this as well.
- Much of the architecture in Batman: Arkham Knight is Art Deco, in keeping with the traditional Batman aesthetic. The Gotham City of Knight is basically a collection of Art Deco skyscrapers and Gothic cathedrals.
- A lot of the architecture in BioShock's Rapture is of Art Deco design, drawing a lot of inspiration from 1930s and '40s American architectural styles. The game's pause menu also has a heavy Art Deco influence. The Ayn Rand connection is heavily played up, as Rapture's founder, Andrew Ryan, is basically a deconstruction of one of Rand's heroes, and Rapture is founded on objectivist principles. The game itself is an exploration of why those principles wouldn't actually work as the basis for a society.
- A computer game called The Chessmaster 2000 had Art Deco as its default style for the chess pieces.
- The fifth instalment of Civilization has some influences in Art Deco, particularly in the user interface.
- Close to the Sun the ship is heavily inspired by Art Deco despite the fact that the design would not appear until 20 years after the game's setting.
- The loading screens in Dragon Age II have significant art deco design influences, filtered through a more medieval illuminated manuscript style.
- The Sierra Madre Casino in the Fallout: New Vegas DLC Dead Money is designed in art deco style (as is quite a bit of the rest of the Fallout universe to varying extents).
- The Outer Worlds takes various design cues from Art Deco in its world as well as the interface and fonts.
- Much like BioShock, Prey (2017) has this style as a strong influence for the design of the Talos I station. Most obviously, places such as the Lobby of the station display a strong influence, while the shape of the station itself looks like it walked straight out of the page image.
- Red Flood, a Hearts of Iron IV Alternate History mod, makes heavy use of this in its redesigned aesthetics. It makes sense, given that it's set in a world where, thanks to World War I ending with no winner and everybody too battered to keep fighting, mad artists formed a political movement called Accelerationism that successfully took over postwar France and is rooted in the more political themes of futurism.In short...
- In The Spectrum Retreat, the eponymous retreat, the Penrose Hotel, is built in this style, from architecture to fonts and even the clothing of the staff.
- The Sims 3 has Bridgeport with Art Deco motifs on certain penthouses and houses, and Roaring Heights, a city filled to the brim with 1920s and '30s Art Deco aesthetics.
- The indie fighting game Skullgirls borrows a lot influences of the Art Deco style (stylized as "Dark Deco") and the Golden Age of Hollywood. The music, composed by Michiru Yamane of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night fame, incorporates jazz-styled music of the 1940s to go along with the game's art direction.
- Cloudbank in Transistor has some obvious art deco influences, mixed in TRON-like aesthetics in a Midgar-esque cyberpunk setting.
- In Crossing Kevin's Crossing the narrator buys an art deco style lamp at an antique store.
- The art style of Batman: The Animated Series, from the buildings, to the shading, to the character designs, is heavily based on this, combined with Film Noir elements. Bruce Timm and his crew even named the animation style as Dark Deco.
- Looney Tunes:
- The title cards of My Life as a Teenage Robot are based on the Art Deco style. The overall animation style also has strong Deco elements.
- Arcane is full of this within a general steampunk aesthetic, much of it in the title design, but certainly also in a lot of in-universe architecture and industrial design, particularly in Piltover's uptown.
- Many American skyscrapers of the period were built in this style. Some notable ones:
- The most iconic are probably New York City's most famous 1920s-30s skyscrapers, the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building. Both are heavily built on Art Deco. The Chrysler is the more obviously Art Deco (what with the radiant steel decoration at the top), but the Empire State Building is also clearly of the style, and its mast (originally envisioned to be a port for airships) is almost parodically of the age. 30 Rockefeller Plaza is also famous, largely because of its major tenant, NBC.
- Chicago has a number of Art Deco skyscrapers, the tallest of which is the Board of Trade Building, which still towers over the LaSalle Street canyon. However, its most notable Art Deco building is probably the Merchandise Mart, which is not really a skyscraper; although it is mostly an 18-story building, with a 25-story tower embedded in it, and therefore just about tall enough to be called a skyscraper, it is so wide (it was the largest building in the world for a while) and its use so unusual (it's mostly a warehouse/wholesale/retail venue rather than offices, residences, or a hotel) that calling it a skyscraper misses something.
- Los Angeles has a few stellar examples, mostly designed by Stiles O. Clements, an architect known for his flamboyant Art Deco designs. These include the buildings that house the Wiltern and Mayan theaters. Clements also designed the now-legendary Atlantic Richfield building, in shiny black and gold (fitting for an oil company). It was demolished in 1969 when Bunker Hill was leveled flat.
- Detroit has two landmark ones: the Fisher Building and the Guardian Building. The Guardian in particular is considered one of the finest examples of the highly decorated, ornate style of Art Deco that recalls nothing more than the most exuberant forms of Gothic architecture. The Fisher Building, for its part, is one of the major works of noted Art Deco architect Albert Kahn.
- San Francisco's most famous Art Deco architecture is not a skyscraper, but the Golden Gate Bridge. In the skyscraper department, it boasts 450 Sutter Street, with its unique "Neo-Mayan" take on Art Deco.
- The Hope Memorial Bridge in Cleveland has two sets of rather magnificent Art Deco sculptures known as the "Guardians of Traffic" placed at either end of the bridge. When the city's baseball team decided in 2021 to change its name from the Indians, it chose "Guardians" as the new name in honor of the beloved statues.
- Hoover Dam, built in the 1930s, has some amazing Art Deco elements, evidenced by the statues and the curvature of the dam contrasting the naturalistic forms of the Black Canyon and the Colorado River.
- Being a former American colony, Philippine architecture in the 1920s and 1930s fell in love with Art Deco. Most of the buildings were unfortunately destroyed during World War II.
- The city of Manila used to have numerous Art Deco style buildings only for most of them to be destroyed during World War II. The surviving structures included the Crystal Arcade, the Main Building of the Far Eastern University and Manila Metropolitan Theatre.
- The city of Iloilo in the Philippines also has its share of Art Deco style buildings. Among the most prominent ones is the Old Jaro Municipal Hall◊ which was converted first as a police station, then as a museum.
- The facade of the Cebu Provincial Hall◊ is an interesting blend of Art Deco and Neoclassic style.
- Nowadays derisively-called Stalinist Architecture of the 1933-1955 period in the Soviet Union was a heavily politicized derivative of this and Post-Constructivist movements.
- While Stalinist architecture died in the 1960s and got replaced by more modern if duller designs, Soviet sculptors and industrial designers still clung to similar styling for a few decades more.
- Rather funnily, an entire class of automotive design which emerged during The Great Depression and died hopelessly during The '50s, the "aerodynamic fastback" style. Most widely-known examples: Lincoln◊ Zephyr◊ and Cord 810 / 812◊. It relied on a specific set of conditions to be met: relatively low-powered engines were not quite the best for performance (original VW Bug◊ had barely 24hp!), yet the roads were still sparsely-populated with cars, so designers went to aerodynamic body shapes to increase efficiency and speed like in advanced aircraft of the time, and also to break with the tradition of frilly, horse-carriage inspired earlier designs. Once the new high-compression engines came after the early 1950s, there was less interest in aerodynamics.
- Similar to automobiles, steam locomotive builders got very into art deco with their designs. Streamlined trains such as the Dreyfuss Hudson and the Commodore Vanderbilt are still quite popular among rail enthusiasts. Most of the more famous art deco locomotives were scrapped however so the only way to see them is through old film or photos, including the Hudson and the Vanderbilt.
- RMS Queen Mary, features a lot of Art Deco (of the Streamline Moderne variety) in the public spaces, but made a point to not go as all out with it as her main competitor the Normandie.
- The Chrysler Airflow was a notable automotive example, being developed around the Streamline Moderne design language which was hailed as the future for motor vehicles. While it was ultimately deemed to be a commercial failure for Chrysler (not helping matters was The Great Depression which caused a slump in new car sales for one), not to mention a critical one as the public was alienated at what they saw as an "anonymous lump", it would later be Vindicated by History as a seminal car, inspiring the likes of Volvo's PV 36 Carioca and the Toyota AA, which was heavily derived from the DeSoto variant of the Airflow and ran on a straight-six engine copied from Chevrolet.
- Romain "Erté" de Tirtoff's fashion illustrations.
- Most of Tamara de Lempicka's paintings.
- The French Fashion Magazine La Gazette Du Bon Ton that ran from late 1912 to 1925 is a forerunner of this, composing of at the time cutting edge fashion designs illustrated by artists like Georges Barbier, Pierre Brissaud, Paul Iribe and Erté.
- The fashion house/department store Biba was the poster child for Art Deco Revival that occurred during The '70s.