Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs

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Émile Gallé (1846—1904)

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(established 1882)

UCAD was founded in 1882 from the amalgamation of the Societé du Musée des Arts Décoratifs and the Union Centrale des Beaux‐Arts Appliqués à l'Industrie with the aim of promoting ‘in France an artistic culture that seeks to marry beauty and utility’. A non‐profit organization, the impetus for its establishment came from the desire of manufacturers to forge closer links between art, industry, and culture. UCAD's initial aims, many of which have remained throughout its existence, were to develop collections of art and design, to undertake cultural initiatives, and to provide training in art and design. However, for much of its existence the organization attracted criticism for its frequent perceived inability to live up to one of its stated ambitions—to improve standards design for the majority as well as the better off. In its early years it organized exhibitions including L'Art de la femme of 1892 that focused on textiles and other fields of design and the decorative arts with which women were generally associated, acknowledging women's importance in matters of taste, especially with regard to the home. In 1899 UCAD organized a competition to stimulate originality and aesthetic quality in the decorative arts. Designs for furniture, interiors, everyday objects, clothing, and jewellery were solicited for inclusion in the large‐scale Paris Exposition Universelle of 1900. UCAD's Pavilion at the 1900 exhibition revealed something of its aesthetic predilections through its contents that included the work of leading French ateliers and designers such as Hector Guimard, Louis Majorelle, and Émile Gallé. Similar tendencies were also seen in UCAD's Pavillion at the St Louis International Exhibition in the United States. A significant step forward was made by the organization with the opening of its museum in 1905 with many galleries, a large library and document collection, and dedicated exhibition space. It was located in the Rohan wing of the Louvre in Paris, subsequently moving to the Rue de Rivoli. In the period immediately preceding the outbreak of the First World War common with other design organizations in Europe at the time, UCAD committed itself to campaigning for well‐designed, affordable practical products and stimulating the national economy through the mass production of truly modern design. However, despite hosting exhibitions such as the first exhibition by the UAM (Union des Artistes Modernes) in 1930, L'Art moderne cadre de la vie contemporaine, its outlook moved towards one that was less progressive and often historicising. After the Second World War it mounted a number of exhibitions such as French fashion (1945), La Siège français du Moyen Âge à nos jours (1947), and Les Ateliers du goût (1948) on the theme of art education. However, a change of direction was discernible with the appointment of François Mathey, later chief curator from 1966 to  . Not only was the work of individual major artists and designers displayed but also of more contemporary themes such as Formes scandinaves (1958) and Formes industrielles (1964), one of the first dedicated to the industrial design in France. This growing emphasis on contemporary issues, largely articulated through Mathey's energies, led to the establishment of the Centre de Création Industrielle (CCI) in 1969. In 1978 UCAD established the Musée de l'Affiche, later reconstituted as the Musée du Publicitée that opened in 1999 with collections covering all aspects of the field, ranging from posters and press advertising through to film, television, and radio commercials. Also under the UCAD umbrella is the Musée de la Mode et du Textile, and the schools of the Centre des Arts du Livre et de l'Encadrement.


Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.

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