Art History Trip: Art Deco Architecture and the Tate Modern

Friday 30 Sep 2016

By: Sarah Jones, Teacher of Art

Our taster of Art Deco architecture took us to the Savoy and the Strand Palace Hotel.

We were fortunate to experience the architectural decadence of the Savoy; clad in stainless steel, later to be emulated in many iconic buildings of the future (the Savoy did it before the Chrysler). The Savoy provided pure opulence at every opportunity; from plush carpets, curved stair railings, brass surrounded doors to a first-class dining experience (of which on this occasion we did not partake!). We were shown private meeting rooms where Churchill once spoke to cocktail bars with photos of former guests (Marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier). Shell-backed chairs and especially re-made Art Deco dustbins resided in private suites (with Butler service).

Across the road we were escorted up the steps of the Strand Palace hotel. Much has changed in this hotel and unfortunately some key Art Deco features extracted (they can now be seen in the Victoria and Albert Museum). We were treated to the neon-lit art deco staircases leading us into the basement area. The Strand Palace also boasts it is in the running for ‘best London toilet’ – an accolade indeed – and we all went in to explore the facilities.

By contrast we then walked the Southbank to the newly extended ‘power-house’ of modern art; the Tate Modern, looking at how the function had been transferred from industrial (old power station) to art exhibition space. Of key focus was the Goergia O’Keeffe exhibition. This was a treat indeed as O’Keeffe’s work has no British owners and is rarely seen in this country let alone to compile so many works displaying the progression in her extensive career; she was 98 when she died. The exhibition put her work into context: her landscape, relationships and her own distinctive way of seeing. O’Keeffe helps us see the beauty before our eyes:

‘Nobody sees a flower really – it is so small it takes time – we haven’t time – and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.’



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