The Frist Art Museum presents American Art Deco: Designing for the People, 1918–1939, an exhibition that offers an in-depth examination of an international style that manifested stateside in decorative arts, fine arts, architecture, and design during the 1920s and 1930s. Co-organized by The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri, and Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska, American Art Deco will conclude the Frist’s 20th-anniversary year and be on view in the Ingram Gallery from October 8, 2021, through January 2, 2022.
Appropriately presented within the Frist’s own art deco interior during the museum’s 20th-anniversary year, the exhibition examines not only the glamour and optimism of the 1920s, but also the impact of the Great Depression in the 1930s. Approximately 140 works of art, including paintings by Thomas Hart Benton, Aaron Douglas, and Grant Wood; a 1930 Ford Model A; and a broad array of decorative objects—furniture, glassware, vases, and jewelry—along with an audio tour featuring music and imagined conversations will immerse guests in the dynamic interwar period.
As is evident in iconic structures like the Chrysler Building in New York, the Delano Hotel in Miami, and the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, architecture was one of the most common idioms in which the art deco style was utilized in the United States. The Frist’s building—formerly Nashville’s postal headquarters—was built in 1933–34 by local firm Marr & Holman and financed by the US Treasury Department’s Office of Construction. The lobby contains examples of art deco–style colored marble and other stone geometric forms on the floor and walls, as well as cast-aluminum doors and grillwork featuring symbols of local industry.
“We hope that our building provides the perfect context for this show that reflects this complex age of American zeal and loss,” says Frist Art Museum senior curator Katie Delmez.
The years between the two world wars saw great social, political, and cultural change in the United States.
“Hundreds of thousands of African American families left the South for economic opportunities and hopes of racial equity in northern, midwestern, and western cities; women won the right to vote through the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution in 1920; and artists adopted modern streamlined styles developed in Europe using new production technologies and materials,” says Delmez. “The range of works in this exhibition allows audiences to consider both the optimism and glamour of this moment in our nation’s history and the devastation and discrimination that was also prevalent.”
Watch a Frist at Home: American Art Deco online tour—a closer look at some of the art currently at the museum. Spend thirty minutes in the company of docents and other art lovers. Thursday, October 21, 1:30–2:00 p.m. on Zoom; free; registration required, also Thursday, October 28, 1:30–2:00 p.m.; and Thursday, November 18, 1:30–2:00 p.m.; visit FristArtMuseum.org/events to register.
Don’t miss Mary Sibande: Blue Purple Red, also through Jan 2, 2022. Johannesburg-based Mary Sibande creates hyperrealistic figurative sculptures, photographs, and virtual reality installations that address inequities of race, gender, politics, and economics in postcolonial South Africa.