November 15, 2008

"Paris/New York: Design Fashion Culture 1925-1940"

The period between the 2 World Wars was a time of warp speed progress in art and culture on both sides of the Atlantic. Paris, the capital of 19th Century refinement, and New York, the gleaming metropolis, were locked in a friendly duel for the prestige of being Number One in the fields of fashion, architecture and design. This unprecedented rivalry and exchange of ideas resulted in the 1920's and 30's becoming a golden age of sophistication and elegance. A new exhibition now on at the Museum of the City of New York explores the creative and competitive relationship between the two world capitals and the effect it had on 20th Century culture.

This exhibit looks at art and architecture, fashion, design and the performing arts and explores how ideas were exchanged between the Old World and the New. The combination of French Beaux-Arts style and New York Modernism created a new aesthetic that came to be known as Art Déco. New materials and ideas were reflected in a streamlined style - dynamic, urbane, luxurious and above all modern.

Displays of vintage furniture, fashions, jewelry and artifacts are complemented by drawings, photographs, posters and video that showcase the fascination with skyscrapers, speed and elegance. Luminary designers such as Coco Chanel, Paul Poiret, Jean Dunand, Edgar Brandt and Ely Kahn are side by side with artists Salvador Dali, George Balanchine, Christian Bérard and Josephine Baker. Although this cannot be considered a comprehensive show, it is an informative sampling of a very special time in Franco-American relations. "Paris/New York" remains on view until February 22, 2009.

No visit The Museum of the City of New York would be complete without a trip up to the third floor to see the fabulous Stettheimer Dollhouse. Created in the 1920's by Carrie Stettheimer, one of the three Stettheimer sisters who lived with their mother at The Alwyn Court on West 58th Street, it is a masterpiece in detail and charm. But what makes this dollhouse so remarkable is the miniature art gallery of original works created and given to Carrie by various artist friends who frequented the sisters' splendid salons. Small scale sculptures by Gaston Lachaise and William Zorach, tiny little drawings and paintings by Albert Gleizes and Florine Stettheimer and the most amazing piece of all - an itsy bitsy version of Marcel Duchamp's "Nude Descending a Staircase". This is one of the little known jewels hidden away in an obscure section of a not-so-famous museum. New York is full of such treasures - you just have to know where to look!

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