Art Deco : Ever impressive cultural venues

True cathedrals of commerce, Parisian department stores switched from Art Nouveau to Art Deco in the 1920s. Products were better showcased and the functionality of the store also taken into account.

Art Deco was first and foremost a movement based on decorative art, architecture and design. In Paris, three real cultural palaces were built in the 1930s. And their contents are as unique as the buildings themselves.

The Art Deco style was named after the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts held in Paris from April to October 1925. Contrary to Art Nouveau, which chose arabesques, plant and organic forms, Art Deco was an art of reason, symmetry and classicism. Leaving aside mouldings and frills, Art Deco emphasized the functionality of furniture and buildings and still retains a very dynamic spirit. As Post-war France was booming, the economic revival gave Art Deco designers and architects the opportunity to rebuild destroyed parts of Paris and its region.

The new cultural venues were mainly built around the Eiffel Tower and the Porte Dorée: the Musée des Colonies, the Palais des musées d’Art moderne (which now houses the Palais de Tokyo and the Musée d’art moderne) and the Palais de Chaillot. These tree massive, spacious and richly decorated buildings were designed for the most prestigious international exhibitions of the era: the 1931 Colonial Exhibition and the Arts and Techniques in Modern Life exhibition in 1937. Today, these majestic buildings are home to a wealth of treasures of multicultural art, while always remaining open to the world.

The Palais de Tokyo is even bigger today: over the past decade, it has been expanded from 8,000 to 22,000m2. It was built in a simple and powerful style: two symmetrical wings, a large peristyle, a reflecting pool, with a large terrace, a monumental staircase and a bas-relief by Alfred Janniot. Inside, you will find the most amazing and cutting edge contemporary art.

Next door, the Palais de Chaillot remains one of the major landmarks of 1930s Paris. Overlooking the beautiful Trocadéro gardens, its two neoclassical style pavilions offer views on the Eiffel Tower and the Champs de Mars. The interior decoration, created by 71 painters and sculptors, presents a wide range of the Art Deco trends of the time. Today, the Palace houses the Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine in its Paris wing, the Musée de l’Homme in the Passy wing (closed for renovation until 2015) as well as the prestigious Théâtre national de Chaillot. Further out, in Bercy and the Bois de Vincennes, the Palais de la Porte Dorée, the only vestige of the Colonial exhibition in 1931, is also monumental: 16,000m2, a bas-relief facade by Alfred Janniot of over 1,000m2 and a tropical aquarium. You can also visit the Musée de l’histoire de l’immigration, which takes a new look at the history of France.