American Art Deco: Designing for the People, 1918–1939
6/5/2021 - 9/5/2021


American Art Deco: Designing for the People,1918–1939 investigates a dynamic period in American history and culture when the
country and its citizens went through political, economic, social, and artistic transformation and revolution. From stylish decorative art objects to products of industrial design, modern American paintings to compelling photographic images, the multi-media works of art in this exhibition reflect both the glamour and optimism 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. It 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 rich materials and new technologies, influencing the design of everything from skyscrapers and automobiles to clothing and radios. American Art Deco offers an in-depth examination of the cultural context of this international style as it flourished in the United States between the World Wars. Primarily from Midwest collections, the 140-plus objects in this exhibition exemplify the Art Deco style and underscore significant themes of the era, including the migration of designs and designers from Europe to the United States; industrial and technological advancement in the period following World War I; the changing profile of the modern woman; the rise of the middle class and consumer culture; and inequities in gender, race, and wealth.

The exhibition is arranged in ten thematic sections: Paris to America; American Art Deco; The New Woman; An Architectural Era; Art & Design; Streamline Modern; American Expansion; Economic Depression and Stimulus; Jazz Age—Culture of Change; and Modern Living. Highlights include glass by René Lalique and the Indiana Glass Company; sculpture by Paul Manship; ceramics by Frank L. Ferrell for Roseville Pottery Company; paintings by Aaron Douglas, Walter Dove, N.C. Wyeth, and Thomas Hart Benton; and photographs by Dorothea Lange and Carl Van Vechten. An array of everyday objects—from hats, compacts, and dresses to barware, clocks, and chairs—punctuates the exhibition.

American Art Deco: Designing for the People, 1918-1939 premieres at Joslyn Art Museum, a landmark of Art Deco architecture, during its ninetieth anniversary (June 5–September 5, 2021). The exhibition will then travel to Frist Art Museum (Nashville, TN; October 8, 2021-January 2, 2022), Wichita Art Museum (Wichita, KS; February 12-May 30, 2022), and The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (Kansas City, MO; July 9, 2022-January 8, 2023).

This exhibition is organized by Joslyn Art Museum and The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO. Major lender to the exhibition is Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, Denver, CO. Key loans from Kirkland Museum join loans from Fisk University Galleries and John Hope and Aurelia E. Franklin Library, Fisk University, Nashville, TN; Kansas City Museum, MO; Sheldon Museum of Art, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Wichita Art Museum, KS; and several private collections, along with objects from the collections of the Nelson-Atkins and Joslyn for this special exhibition. The exhibition is curated by Catherine Futter, Ph.D. (formerly Director of Curatorial Affairs at the Nelson-Atkins, now Interim Director of Curatorial Affairs and Senior Curator, Decorative Arts, at Brooklyn Museum) and coordinated at Joslyn Art Museum by Taylor J. Acosta, Ph.D., Willis A. Strauss Curator of European Art.


What's Pictured: Thomas Hart Benton (American, 1889–1975), Discovery, 1920, from the series, American Historical Epic, 1920–28, oil on canvas mounted on aluminum honeycomb panel, 60 1/16 x 42 1/8 in., The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Bequest of the artist, F75-21/1. © T.H. Benton and R.P. Benton Testamentary Trusts/UMB Bank, Trustee/Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


Exhibition Mobile Tour
Free Wi-Fi is available in all Joslyn galleries. Guests may use their own mobile device to access the dual language American Art Deco mobile tour (transcript available in the website options). Dial (402) 881-3601 for English or (402) 972-4031 for Spanish. Virtual tour: from afar, using your computer. Presented by Joslyn and OnCell. Special thanks to 91.5 KIOS-FM.

Exhibition Tickets, Hours, and Visitor Information
American Art Deco is a ticketed exhibition. Advance reservations are required for a visit to the Museum; choose the timed ticket that includes the special exhibition when you make your reservation online. Exhibition tickets will become available two weeks in advance of the exhibition opening date. Complete visitor guidelines and ticket reservation information.

Timed tickets that include a visit to the special exhibition are as follows:
  • $10 for general public adults [select: Special Exhibition and General Admission – Adult]
  • FREE for youth ages 17 and younger [select: Special Exhibition and General Admission – Child]
  • FREE for Joslyn Members [members must sign in to their account to ensure ticket discount is applied]. Not a member? Join today!
Special instructions for college student tickets:
  • $5 college students with ID [these paid tickets are handled at the entrance desk upon presentation of a valid student ID. Students should reserve a free timed General Admission Adult ticket in advance. Upon arrival at the Museum, a student American Art Deco ticket may be added, payable at the entrance desk.]
  • FREE for those with a UNMC student ID [UNMC students should reserve a free timed General Admission Adult ticket in advance. Upon arrival at the Museum, show your UNMC student ID, and a Revisiting America ticket may be added, free of charge.]
All guests: Upon arrival at the Museum, please show proof of your timed visit and American Art Deco reservation(s).

Exhibition Hours:

American Art Deco is open during all current regular Museum hours (Wednesday–Sunday, 10 am to 4 pm)*, June 5–September 5, 2021.

*The exhibition is open 10 am to 8 pm on these selected Fridays: July 2, August 6, and September 3


Exhibition-Related Events and Programs:

Wednesday, June 2; 7 pm
Members-Only Virtual Lecture

Thursday, June 3; 5–8 pm
Members-Only Preview

Friday, June 4; 10 am–8 pm
Members-Only Friday

Sunday, June 6; 2 pm

Tuesday, June 8; 10:30 am

Thursday, June 17; 9 pm
Movie Night with Film Streams

Thursday, July 15; 6:30 pm
Virtual Lecture—"American Cacophony"—Midwest Art Deco 1918–1939: A Historical Context, by Jonathan C. Hagel, Ph.D.
Details coming soon.

Saturday, July 17; 10 am-4 pm
Vintage Vehicle Display with Meadowlark Model A Ford Club
Details coming soon.

Dance Film with American Midwest Ballet
Watch for a link to this virtual performance, coming soon!