About This Exhibition

Art Deco is a wildly popular architecture and design movement from the 1920s and 1930s—the Roaring Twenties and Great Depression. The Wichita Art Museum will present an exhibition of 140+ iconic artworks—decorative arts, paintings, sculptures, and more—that epitomize this historical moment in American experience. This touring exhibition, co-organized by the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska, and The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, will open at WAM on Saturday, February 12, 2022.

American Art Deco: Designing for the People investigates this dynamic period when the county went through sharp economic, political, social as well as artistic transformation. From stylish decorative art objects to industrial design products, from compelling photographs to modern paintings, the range of artworks in this exhibition reflect the glamour of the 1920s and the devastation and escapism of the 1930s.

Art Deco, short for arts décoratifs, took its name from the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, held in Paris in 1925. The international exposition celebrated a new style characterized by geometric ornament, symmetry, stylization, and angularity, which developed globally with different variants. In the United States, it combined modern style with an embrace of materials used in industry and new technologies, influencing the design of everything from skyscrapers and automobiles to clothing and radios.

“This exhibition breaks new ground in the field of 20th-century decorative arts and design in its exploration of societal shifts following World War I and the flu pandemic of 1918,” said Julián Zugazagoitia, Menefee D. and Mary Louise Blackwell CEO and Director of the Nelson-Atkins. “More Americans had access to new designs, but there were also economic and social realities that prevented everyone from enjoying new fashions in household goods. The exhibition investigates the aspirations, dreams, and challenges of the 1920s and 1930s.”

The Wichita Art Museum also has lent five works from its collection to American Art Deco, including Arthur Dove’s painting Forms Against the Sun, Carl Wuermer’s painting American Farmer, and the Georgia O’Keeffe-designed and Max Erlacher-engraved Jimson Weed Plate.

American Art Deco is organized by Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, NE, and The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO. The exhibition is curated by Dr. Catherine Futter, formerly Director of Curatorial Affairs at the Nelson-Atkins and now Interim Director of Curatorial Affairs and Senior Curator of Decorative Arts at Brooklyn Museum.

The Major lender to the exhibition is Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Art in Denver, Colorado. Key loans from Kirkland Museum join loans from Fisk University Galleries and John Hope and Aurelia E. Franklin Library at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee; Kansas City Museum in Missouri; Sheldon Museum of Art, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Wichita Art Museum; and several private collections along with objects from the collections of the Nelson-Atkins and Joslyn for this special exhibition.

Sleek silver car ornament installed on a black and silver base

Raymond Loewy, Hupmobile Hood Ornament, 1936–38. Hupp Motor Company, manufacturer, Detroit, Michigan, 1908–1941. Chromium-plated metal, 6 3/8 x 6 1/8 x 6 1/4 inches. Marshall V. Miller Collection