If you ask someone walking down Broadway if they've ever head of Art Deco, they will probably tell you, 'Sorry, I don’t know him'. However, most of us highly artistic folks – *wink* - know exactly what Art Deco is when we see it, however, describing it can sometimes be a challenge.
A design style that began during the 1920’s in France (Paris to be exact), Art Deco flourished internationally throughout the 1930s and influenced designs in architecture, interior design, fashion and even the visual arts. The term ‘art deco’ was coined after the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts was held in 1935 (Paris again), probably because saying International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts was such a pain in the you-know-what.
Art Deco was influenced by a variety of sources as divergent as the Mayans of Central America to ancient Egyptian primitive art. During the early part of the 20th century in the United States it was also influenced by emerging new technologies like electricity and aviation, producing fractionated, crystalline, faceted forms likened to Cubism. These were bold, futuristic designs that were meant to celebrate the new age of man and modernism.
Most often characterized by the use of stainless steel, glass, aluminum, inlaid wood and even sharkskin, the designs are usually quite bold and even daring, incorporating sweeping curves, sunburst motifs, and stepped forms among others. In New York there are many buildings that were influenced by the Art Deco style, including the Empire State Building, Radio City Music Hall, the Chrysler Building, Irving Trust building and hundreds of others that are eponymously known by their street address.