Art deco revival

James Cocklngton
February 29, 2012

Expect another surge in art deco soon. Or maybe it's here already.
Woody Allen's movie Midnight in Paris, released here late last
year, has triggered a lot of interest in this design style. Baz
Luhrmann's coming version of The Great Gatsby should do the
same, as did the 197 4 film starring Robert Redford and Mia
Farrow. Agatha Christie's Poirot has been a strong influence on
television and a new Australian series, Miss Fisher's Murder
Mysteries, which began last Friday on ABC1, should also have
an impact.

The latter series is set in Melbourne, which appears to be the art
deco capital of Australia. The 2008 art deco exhibition at the
National Gallery of Victoria is seen as the inspiration for the
revival down south.
Melbourne has a thriving Art Deco Society (see
and several antique shops devoted to the style. Lifestyle, in
some cases. Valerie Stein, who runs the Fabrile shop in High
Street, Armadale, says she has clients who live in art deco
houses furnished throughout in that style (as does she) and a
few who even dress that way.
One is Angela Noonan, who looks as if she has stepped out of
the pages of The Great Gatsby.
This is how she looks every day. Noonan points out that while
Victorian and Edwardian furniture, for example, has dropped in
value over the past decade, art deco pieces have either held
steady or increased, in some cases dramatically . 

In Paris in April last year, a Christie's three-day sale of Laurent
Negro's monumental collection of mainly French art deco fetched
€24.3 million ($US34.3 million).
This was a remarkable result, given that several parts of the
euro zone were crumbling around them at the time.
The best sellers were pieces by Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann,
including a 1929 ski-chair that sold for a world record $US4
million. A desk-and-chair set previously owned by former French
prime minister Andre Tardieu fetched $US3.2 million.
The ski-chair had been bought by the collector in 1999 for
Multimillion-dollar pieces are unlikely to be found here but typical
of what has been sourced in Australia was a pair of upholstered
armchairs by Gauthier Poinsignon, made in France circa 1925.
These turned up at a Mossgreen auction in Melbourne in 2008,
priced at $12,500. Judging by the Paris prices, these may have
been a bargain.
Art deco pieces of the highest quality are proving to be excellent
investments. If you were clairvoyant enough to start buying 30
years ago you would now be sitting on a fortune.
Furniture and the decorative arts are the most established areas
but the style also applies to fashion. Stein specialises in
jewellery and travels annually to New York and Paris to pick up
pieces. These, too, have risen in value.
Fifteen years ago she paid $20 for a 1920s Bakelite bangle that
is now valued at $600 to $700.
The best known of these bangles is a design named the
One owned by Andy Warhol sold for $US1 7,000 in 1988. Even
examples not owned by dead celebrities sell for about $10,000
these days.

Stein says it's the aura of decadence that has made deco retain its popularity and value, even in difficult times.
She's noticed that anything to do with cocktails - this was a dominant theme of the jazz age - walks out of her shop.
Advice for those starting to collect is to concentrate on the best pieces available. Anything attributed to a noted designer or
manufacturer is worth considering. Look for names such as
Chiparus, Lalique, Baccarat and Poinsignon (and Ruhlmann, of
course). In fashion and jewellery, Schiaparelli and Miriam
Haskell are two immortals.

The classic period for art deco was between the two world wars
but the style was widely copied and many pieces sold in
Australia are locally made imitations, often created several
decades after the originals. Serious collectors are cautious of
anything described as art deco until they see it and study its
provenance carefully .