Simpósio Internacional 2010

Perception of Art Nouveau, Brussels, 4 and 5 December 2010
Programme and abstracts: French/English or French/Dutch

All contributions have been peer reviewed

AuthorPaul GREENHALGH, Director of the Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts, at the University of East Anglia
TitleLife and afterlife: observations on the decline and resurrection of Art Nouveau

Document PDF (in English)  
Conference play MP3 (in English)

AbstractIn 1995, the V&A Museum in London began planning a major exhibition on the Art Nouveau style. One of the key debates among curators at that time was whether the public would attend the exhibition, and therefore, whether it was worth doing. When the exhibition opened in 2000, it broke the museum’s attendance record.
Art Nouveau as a style had perhaps one of the most complex developmental phases: its formation is still the subject of scholarly exploration and debate. But if anything, the decline of Art Nouveau, and its very chequered afterlife through the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, is even more complex and difficult to explain. So much so, that it was unclear in 1995 what the public thought of the style. In key periods in the twentieth century, it was reviled in ways which few styles have ever been. The level of castigation often belied the idea that this was simply a visual style: for many writers, it was a contagion. At yet other moments, the style enjoyed spectacular popularity and prosperity. This paper will use examples from England, Belgium, France, and America, and seek to explain and describe two phenomena: first, the actual reasons for the decline of Art Nouveau and second, the changing attitudes of collectors, critics and institutions in the century after its demise as a living style.

With the support of the Culture Programme of the European Union

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