The 1970’s & 1980’s Revival of Art Deco

Updated: Mar 12, 2019

Inspiring fashion, illustration and design, I will be looking at some of the 1970’s and 1980’s Art Deco revivals that I find the most fun, interesting and collectable.

© RWC Creative

The 1920’s and 1930’s Art Deco period oozed sophistication, glamour and style. A blinding moment in time that exploded with bursts of sun rays and star motifs. A flapper doing the Jitterbug on a table top, champagne overflowing from a shallow coupe. This heady movement galloped past the old and embraced the new and all that was ‘Art Moderne’. Epitomising optimism and celebration, it’s no surprise this joyous movement continues to be reinvented and interpreted today.

Edited still from ‘Our Dancing Daughters’ (1928) RWC Creative.

Today, original 1920’s Art Deco pieces fetch a premium, however the later revivals can still provide good value for the discerning collector. The 1960’s saw a post-war renewed interest in Art Deco. Preservation initiates such as those at Miami Beach, Florida helped to ignite tourism across Art Deco mecca cities such as Singapore, Havana and Paris. The counterculture movement of the 1960’s rebelled against the capitalist and modernism sentiments of the 1950’s, leading to a new wave of nostalgia and appreciation of the decorative past. Period films such as Bonnie & Clyde, The Great Gatsby and Bugsy Malone were box office hits. The great style influencers and trendsetters of the era: Yves Saint Laurent and Biba’s designer Barbara Hulanicki also championed this revival in the 1970’s. Collectors, interior design influencers and celebrities such as Karl Lagerfeld, Barbra Streisand, Elton John, David Bowie and Robert A. M. Stern to name a few, all played a part in this revival.

1. Installation view of works by Memphis at the exhibition "Bowie/Collector" at Sotheby's London. 2. Barbara Streisand’s Malibu Home - Architectural Digest © Condé Nast. 3. The Elton John Sotheby's Box Set. 4. Robert A.M. Stern, Residence at Llewellyn Park, Poolhouse, Llewellyn Park, New Jersey, 1981-1982. Source: Pinterest

The 1970's - French Art Deco Revival


Maison Jansen & Maison Charles were two French design houses that shared an intrinsic interest in historically referenced design. They successfully exploited their back catalogue of designs to great effect. Maison Jansen skilfully blended classical motifs, inspired by its many noble and royal commissions, while Chistyane Charles created a famed collection of nature inspired sculptural lamps at Maison Charles. In both 1978 and 1981, Maison Charles was awarded the Lampe d’Or design award for the Feuille d’Eau lamp and the the Orchidée lamp.

Maison Jansen Palm Tree Floor Lamp, circa 1970. Source: Pinterest via http://galerielumieres.com

Maison Charles Model III Table Lamp 1978. Source: Pinterest

In the 70's, Pierre Paulin pushed the Art Deco revival toward a futuristic aesthetic that pioneered in the use of new materials that were available at this time. Paulin executed his streamlined designs with an ‘Arte Moderne’ vibe - each piece reflecting a sculptural quality that is other-worldly.

Pierre Paulin at the Centre Pompidou, at the heart of the one of a kind retrospective - Pierre Berdoy/Mobilier national/Paulin Archives. Source: Pinterest

Another favourite is the Italian architect-designers - Afra and Tobia Scarpa, who in 1970 received the Compasso d’Oro award. Abandoning the ‘function over decoration’ ideals of post-war modernism, they worked sumptuous materials into sophisticated geometric forms. Less restrained and futuristic Italian designers, Willy Rizzo and Gabriella Crespi, regularly imbued glamour and opulence in their designs which often directly referenced Art Deco.

SEDIE MONK by Afra e Tobia Scarpa for Molteni. Source: Andrea Boggio - Flickr.

Z Desk by Gabriella Crespi. Steel and timber, 1974. Source: Artnet.com

Willy Rizzo Silver Extendable Coffee Table with Lacquer and Glass, 1970's. Source: Tante Eef Design - Flickr.

The 1980's - Italian Art Deco Revival


The 1980’s ushered in some of the most distinctive and radical examples of this revival. The Italian avant- garde Memphis Group, Studio Alchimia and Archizoom Associati, emerged from the postmodern, re-invigoration of the ‘anti-rational’ Radical Design movement. Each adding an indicative blend of intellect and wit - this was ‘anti design’ at its best. Art Deco architectural forms were often reinterpreted using a mix of natural and experimental materials, blended with a contrasting palette of colour and pattern. The Italian set influenced an entire generation of artists, designers and influencers.

Memphis Group "Carlton" room divider, designed in 1981 by Ettore Sottsass. Own stock image © RWC Creative.

I advise interested clients to consider illustrative art and graphic design to enhance their collections of design. Previous projects included acquiring original illustrations by Antonio Lopez for a client which proved to be a fruitful investment as this was prior to the documentary on his life: Sex, Fashion and Disco. Born in Puerto Rico, Lopez first came to the attention of the fashion world in the 1960s when he created these illustrations with art director Juan Ramos.

© Courtesy of Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos and Galerie Bartsch & Chariau.

Another illustrator and designer of note is Barbara Hulanicki. Born in Poland and raised in the UK, Barbara has been an icon of British fashion since the conception of Biba in the 1960s. Founded with her husband, Stephen Fitz-Simon, Biba became a global phenomenon. The Big Biba store which opened in London in 1973 had a sumptuous Art Deco-interior reminiscent of the golden age of Hollywood. Pieces from this store have been gaining cult status amongst collectors today. Other Biba illustrators worth mentioning are Malcolm Bird, Chris Price and Kasia Charko.


The 1980’s also had its share of artists and illustrators inspired by Art Deco. Patrick Nagel was best known for his illustrations for Playboy magazine and the pop group Duran Duran. His prints were prolific and graced many walls in the 1980’s. His original oil paintings are now being sold for $10,000 - $20,000.

"Brooke". Playboy illustration by Patrick Nagel, 1989. Source: Tom Simpson - Flickr © Patrick Nagel

The appetite for Art Deco jewellery in the 1980’s spawned a collaboration that produced a comprehensive collection of revival jewellery. Roman Petrovich Tyrtov (who called himself Erté after the French pronunciation of his initials) was one of the most prolific exponents of Art Deco throughout the twentieth century. Jack Solomon founder of the Circle of Fine Arts was inspired after visiting an Erté retrospective with his wife in 1974. After initiating a partnership Solomon had a large portion of the artist’s works published in limited editions. He noted the artist had expressed a strong desire to create jewellery. Solomon helped the artist realise this dream after an introduction to jewellery designer Natalie Kane O’Keiff. Their collaboration lasted 10 years and in total,  328 designs, in different versions, were produced.


Foxes necklace with gold, silver, diamonds and emeralds by Erté. Source: Pinterest via lostinjewels.com

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