What is Art Deco?

Although the question seems simple, historians have not been able to agree upon a single, definitive answer. The time period, aesthetic principles, motifs, and just about everything else that typically defines a style or movement, are all open to interpretation when it comes to defining Art Deco. Since ADSNY's founding, we have asked experts from the fields of architecture, design, and history to answer the question––What is Art Deco?––without relying on images to help support their opinion. Hover over any image below to see an overview of how the professionals define Art Deco and for the option to see their full definition. 

Alastair Duncan is a world authority on Art Deco. Among his many books are Art Deco Complete: The Definitive Guide to the Decorative Arts of the 1920s and 1930s; Art Deco Furniture: The French Designers; American Art Deco; Art Deco and Modernism: Modernist Design 1880-1940; and many more.

By Alastair Duncan

Marilyn F. Friedman is a decorative arts and design historian focusing on designers’ associations and exhibitions in New York and other American cities. She is the author of Selling Good Design: Promoting the Early Modern Interior and Making America Modern: Interior Design in the 1930s.

By Marilyn Friedman

Jared Goss is an independent scholar and former Associate Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. He is a former member of the Board of Directors of the Art Deco Society of New York, and he is the author of French Art Deco.

By Jared Goss

Judith Gura is a design historian, author, and lecturer on twentieth century design. Her books include: Interior Landmarks: Treasures of NY; The Guide to Period Styles for Interiors: From the 17th Century to the Present; and Postmodernism Design Complete: Design, Furniture, Graphics, Architecture, Interiors.

By Judith Gura

Pascal Laurent is an architect and instructor of history and design at the Ecole Supérieure d’Architecture Paris-Malaquais (ENSAPM) based in the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, France. Laurent is the President of the Paris Art Deco Society (PADS) and is on the Board of Directors of ICADS.

By Pascal Laurent

David Garrard Lowe is a well-known lecturer, cultural historian, and author as well as the President of New York's Beaux Arts Alliance. His has published many articles and his books include: Stanford White's New York; Beaux Arts New York; Chicago Interiors; and Art Deco New York.

By David Garrard Lowe

Stephen Van Dyk was Library Director of the Cooper Hewitt Museum for more than 30 years and a librarian for nearly 40 years. He is on the Board of ADSNY.

By Stephen Van Dyk

ADSNY has compiled all the definitions it has published since the organizations founding. Originally, these definitions could be found on the first page of each issue of the Art Deco newsletter. Later each issue of ADSNY's Modernist Magazine featured definitions by various Art Deco experts.

From the Archives