Surviving examples may still be seen in many different locations worldwide, in countries as diverse as the United Kingdom, Spain, Cuba, Indonesia, the Philippines, Romania, New Zealand, India and Brazil. Many classic examples still exist in the form of architecture in many major cities. The Empire State Building and The Chrysler Building, both in New York City, are two of the largest and best-known examples of the style.was a 19th-century art movement that began as a loose association of Paris-based artists whose independent exhibitions brought them to prominence in the 1870s and 1880s. The name of the movement is derived from the title of a Claude Monet work, Impression, Sunrise (Impression, soleil levant), which provoked the critic Louis Leroy to coin the term in a satiric review published in Le Charivari.
After the Universal Exposition of 1900, various French artists formed an informal collective known as, La Societe des artistes decorateurs (the society of the decorator artists). Founders included Hector Guimard, Eugene Grasset, Raoul Lachenal, Paul Follot, Maurice Dufrene, and Emile Decour. These artists heavily influenced the principles of Art Deco as a whole. This society's purpose was to demonstrate French decorative art's leading position and evolution internationally. They organized the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes (International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Art) in Paris, which would feature French art and business interests. The terms Style Moderne and Art Deco both derive from the exposition's title, though Art Deco was not widely used until popularized by art historian Bevis Hillier's 1968 book Art Deco of the 20s and 30s.
In the summer of 1969, Hillier conceived organizing an exhibition called Art Deco at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, which took place from July to September 1971. After this event, interest in Art Deco peaked with the publication of his 1971 book The World of Art Deco, a record of the exhibition.
The structure of Art Deco is based on mathematical geometric shapes. It was widely considered to be an eclectic form of elegant and stylish modernism, being influenced by a variety of sources. Among them were the so-called "primitive" arts of Africa, Ancient Egypt, and Aztec Mexico. It also drew on Machine Age or streamline technology, such as modern aviation, electric lighting, the radio, the ocean liner and the skyscraper for inspiration. It is in streamline modern styles that this technology fully manifests itself and, although it is not antithetical to Art Deco, it is now considered to be a separate architectural style.
Art Deco design influences were expressed in the crystalline and faceted forms of decorative Cubism and Futurism. Other popular themes in Art Deco were trapezoidal, zigzagged, geometric, and jumbled shapes, which can be seen in many early pieces. Two great examples of these themes and styles are in Detroit, Michigan: the Fisher Building and the Guardian Building.
Art Deco was an opulent style, and its lavishness is attributed to reaction to the forced austerity imposed by World War I. Its rich, festive character fitted it for "modern" contexts, including the Golden Gate Bridge, interiors of cinema theaters (a prime example being the Paramount Theater in Oakland, California) and ocean liners such as the Ile de France, the Queen Mary, and Normandie. Art Deco was employed extensively throughout the United States' train stations in the 1930s, designed to reflect the modernity and efficiency of the train. Art Deco made use of many distinctive styles, but one of the most significant of its features was its dependence upon a range of ornaments and motifs. The style is said to have reflected the tensions in the cultural politics of its day, with eclecticism having been one of its defining features. In the words of Scott Fitzgerald, the distinctive style of Art Deco was shaped by 'all the nervous energy stored up and expended in the War'. Art Deco has been influenced in part by movements such as Cubism, Russian Constructivism and Italian Futurism, which 'are all evident in Art Deco decorative arts'.
Art Deco is characterized by use of materials such as aluminium, stainless steel, lacquer and inlaid wood. Exotic materials such as sharkskin (shagreen), and zebraskin were also in evidence. The bold use of stepped forms and sweeping curves (unlike the sinuous, natural curves of the Art Nouveau), chevron patterns, and the sunburst motif are typical of Art Deco. Some of these motifs were ubiquitous - for example, sunburst motifs were used in such varied contexts as ladies' shoes, radiator grilles, the auditorium of the Radio City Music Hall, and the spire of the Chrysler Building.
A parallel movement called Streamline Moderne, or simply Streamline, followed close behind. Streamline was influenced by the modern aerodynamic designs, including those emerging from advancing technologies in aviation, ballistics, and other fields requiring high velocity. The attractive shapes resulting from scientifically applied aerodynamic principles were enthusiastically adopted within Art Deco, applying streamlining techniques to other useful objects in everyday life, such as the automobile. Although the beauty of the functional design, not tacked on ornamentation, of the Chrysler Airflow design of 1933 was commercially unsuccessful, it provided the lead for more conservatively designed pseudo-streamlined vehicles.
Streamlining quickly influenced American and European automobile design and changed the look from the rectangular "horseless" carriages into sleek vehicles with sweeping lines, symmetry, and V-shapes that added to their mystique of speed and efficiency. Nash Motors introduced the modern fully-unitized body (monocoque) design for the low-price market in 1941 that featured fastback "Slipstream" models with high prow-like hoods, and art-deco "speed lines" in sweeping chrome grilles and parallel bar trim. These aerodynamic-looking designs were applied by automakers and continued to be popular in the sellers' market after World War II. These "streamlined" forms began to be used in the design of mundane and static objects such as pencil sharpeners, refrigerators, and gas pumps.
Art Deco celebrates the Machine Age through explicit use of man-made materials (particularly glass and stainless steel), symmetry, and repetition, modified by Asian influences such as the use of silks and Middle Eastern designs. It was strongly adopted in the United States during the Great Depression for its practicality and simplicity, while still portraying a reminder of better times and the "American Dream".
The distinctive style of Art Deco has been echoed in many similar movements since its early decline. Art Deco influenced later styles such as Memphis and the Pop art movement. It also had an effect on post modern architecture and styles, even through to the late 1970s. Art Deco has also had a marked influence on contemporary design.