‘Perhaps it’s because the Roaring Twenties are back, 2020s that is’ says Marie-Hélène van Houten, owner of The Past Perfect Collection, ‘but we are seeing a revival of interest for Art Nouveau and Art Deco furniture among our clients. Especially the younger generation; they love this type of Antique Furniture!’
‘Art Nouveau and Art Deco are two of the defining art movements of the 20th century, influencing all elements of visual culture, from fine art and design, to architecture and furniture. Both art movements were reactions to major world events. Art Nouveau was a result of the Industrial Revolution, while Art Deco was a result of World War I.
An easy way to separate the two is to associate decorative, flowery designs with Art Nouveau and sleek, machinistic, geometrical designs with Art Deco’ she explains.
Art Nouveau, meaning ‘New Art’ in French, was a predominant art style from around the beginning of the 1890’s to the beginning of the first World War in 1914.
Furniture created in this unique style featured naturalistic elements in a stylized form. Vines, flowers and water lilies were all elements commonly found in Art Nouveau. Curves and long lines are a defining feature of Art Nouveau, as artists tried to capture shapes found in nature and combine them with arcs, parabolas, and other circular forms. Other common characteristics were asymmetry and polychromy, achieved by inlaying different coloured woods.
‘Art Nouveau is all about nature and dreams. It is magical.’ says Marie-Hélène.
Art Deco reached its height during the 1920s and 1930s, growing out of the Art Nouveau style. But where Art Nouveau featured sinuous curves and stylized flowers, Art Deco was all about symmetry and geometry. This style signified new and modern technologies and was culturally aligned with visions of the future. ‘I think that sentiment still remains; when we look at Art Deco, we associate it with the future’ says Marie-Hélène.
The style got its name from the 1925 International Exhibition of Modern, Decorative and Industrial Arts in Paris. Designers drew inspiration from influences including Bauhaus design, cubism, Russian constructivism and Italian futurism, as well as the exoticism of the time: the Jazz age of the 1920s! Art Deco played into the opulent and extravagant styles that became popular after the war as a reaction to traditionalism. 'The designs were daring and dramatic and like nothing people had seen before' says Marie-Hélène.
If there is something she loves more than anything else it is acquiring new inventory. ‘You never know what you are going to find”, says Marie-Hélène with a sparkle in her eye. After focussing almost solely on colonial furniture pieces from the 19th century, Past Perfect has expanded into 20th century furniture.
'Mumbai which is especially known for its Art Deco and is believed to have the second-most Art Deco buildings in the world, after Miami, is a great place to source for Art Nouveau and Art Deco furniture.' says Marie-Hélène. 'We work with great craftsmen who understand the art of good restoration work and the transformation after the work is done, is amazing.'
The wardrobe tells an Art Noveau story from all angles. But Marie-Hélène is quick to point out its timeless quality. 'It is a masterpiece,' she says, 'impressive in size, with a great design that looks as modern today as it did more than 100 years ago when the movement began.'
‘We are always excited to find an unusual design. Though predominantly Art Deco, this sofa has elements of both styles.’ says Marie-Hélène. ‘The smooth streamlined overall form of the sofa is typical of the Art Deco movement while the armrests, featuring a whiplash design, are in keeping with the Art Nouveau style.’
Beefbar steakhouse in Paris occupies an Art Nouveau Atrium
Art Deco styled Atlas Bar in Singapore.
Today, examples of the different styles fill the pages of design magazines and inspire the interiors of chic restaurants and hotels from Paris to Singapore. ‘There’s a timelessness to it that feels terribly romantic and draws you right in,’ says Marie-Hélène. ’I love the Art Deco boldness of Atlas Bar in Singapore and Art Nouveau styled Beefbar in Paris is definitely a place to visit when you are there!
Maybe what makes the styles so popular is not just the boldness of the styles but the 'joie the vivre' it manages to encapsulate. Art Nouveau and Art Deco are back and worth the wait!' she concludes.
The Past Perfect Collection has a special selection of Art Nouveau and Art Deco furniture from Mumbai.
Co-incidentally the store is located in the historic Tiong Bahru area in Singapore which is known for its attractive Art Deco architecture. A fitting place to be inspired and browse Art Nouveau and Art Deco Furniture!
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