Madrid has gone loco for the artistry, refinement and sheer luxuriousness of Art Deco in a major exhibition at the Juan March Foundation.

By Andrew Ferren
June 10, 2015
Exterior of Fundacion Juan March in Madrid
Credit: © Zoonar GmbH / Alamy

The surprise standout exhibition in Madrid this season will whisk you worlds away from the visceral realism of Velázquez, Goya and other heroes of Spanish painting. Until June 28, you can beat the heat with a bracing plunge into the cool shimmering waters of Art Deco design at the Juan March Foundation.

“The Modern Taste: Art Deco in Paris 1910-1935” is the type of lushly expansive show for which one might buy a special ticket and stand in line at New York’s Metropolitan or London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, but it’s right here at the March Foundation’s jewel-box headquarters in leafy Barrio Salamanca—with no lines and free admission.

Considered the last “total style” in which a unifying aesthetic permeated art, architecture, decorative arts, fashion, jewelry—and even the design of cars and ships—Art Deco had a profound impact on the 20th century. With more than 350 works, the exhibition showcases Lalique glass light fixtures, photos by Man Ray, Cartier jewelry, bespoke furniture by Ruhlmann and Dunand, and costumes designed by Coco Chanel for the Ballets Russes in 1924.

There are also stunning objects by lesser-known creators, such as the shimmering gold lacquered relief by Ramon Delamarre depicting Mowgli from the Jungle Book amid a dense swirl of animals and plants, that have captivated the public (and the media who’ve published the image over and over).

Toward the end of the show, architectural renderings and videos taken aboard the super-swank ocean liner Normandie evoke not only Art Deco glamor but also the so-called Golden Age of travel, when taking a week to cross the Atlantic might have felt rushed amid the onboard social whirl.