Journal Article

Rhetorics of Display: Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau at the Turin Exhibition of 1902

Morna O'Neill

in Journal of Design History

Published on behalf of Design History Society

Volume 20, issue 3, pages 205-225
Published in print January 2007 | ISSN: 0952-4649
Published online September 2007 | e-ISSN: 1741-7279 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jdh/epm013
Rhetorics of Display: Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau at the Turin Exhibition of 1902

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The form of the display mediated the meaning of decorative objects in the encounter of ‘Arts and Crafts’ and ‘Art Nouveau’ at the First International Exhibition of Modern Decorative Art held in Turin in 1902. Most European displays featured model interiors with architectural fittings or the arrangement of furniture ensembles that located the decorative art in the private, domestic sphere. For example, Siegfried Bing recreated the dressing room designed by George de Feure, familiar from his popular ‘Art Nouveau Bing’ pavilion at the Paris exposition of 1900, in the French section. This article suggests that this type of display reaffirmed the pre-eminent status of the consumer. In contrast, the English section organized by the painter and designer Walter Crane under the auspices of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society adopted a museum paradigm for their display. With objects hung on the gallery walls and arranged in vitrines, the Arts and crafts display focused on production and offered decorative objects as public works rather than private objects. As contemporary critics revealed, the rhetorics of these displays underscored the cultural and political tensions surrounding decorative objects and their meanings in this moment.

Keywords: Arts and Crafts; Art Nouveau; design history; international exhibitions; retail; Victoria and Albert Museum

Journal Article.  10823 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Art ; Art Forms ; Industrial and Commercial Art ; Art Styles

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