Red and luxurious interior of the Champs Elysees theater in Paris, France
Art and culture

The History of Art Deco in Paris

April 07, 2022

The Art Deco movement officially took off in Paris amid the rapid industrialisation of Western Europe. France was keen to leave behind the deprivations of the First World War and turned away from Art Nouveau, embracing geometric, modernist forms instead. Paris has plenty of prime Art Deco exemplars that typify the beginning, middle and end of the style.
Red and luxurious interior of the Champs Elysees theater in Paris, France
© Hartl-Meyer

Theatre des Champs-Elysées

The first Art Deco building to open in Paris in 1913, the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées was designed by Henry Van de Velde, the Perret brothers, Antoine Bourdelle, and Maurice Denis, and its reinforced concrete design was revolutionary. It was built thanks to the initiative of theatre promoter Gabriel Astruc and financier Gabriel Thomas, who were keen to provide Paris with a large modern auditorium for opera and music. It was here that some of the first performances of the Ballet Russes took place, including the notorious premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s ‘The Rite of Spring’. The elegant performance venue, with its straight lines, rectangular forms and decorative elements, still stands out today and its programme remains eclectic, holding opera, recitals, orchestral concerts and dance performances.

15 Avenue Montaigne, 75008 Paris

Palais de Tokyo

Today Europe’s largest centre of contemporary art, the Palais de Tokyo was designed in 1937 for L’Exposition Internationale des Arts et des Techniques dans la Vie Moderne. It is one of the city’s best examples of Art Deco style, consisting of two symmetrical wings linked by a large promenade, featuring a rectangular pool of water. It was completely renovated in 2012 by the architects Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal, who stripped it back to its original concrete, giving it a raw, industrial feel. Its rotating schedule of exhibitions includes painting, sculpture, performance and video by both emerging and established artists. There are also various trendy restaurants and a large outdoor Esplanade overlooking the Eiffel Tower to enjoy after soaking up the art.

13 Avenue du Président Wilson, 75116 Paris

Palais de Tokyo
Palais de Chaillot

Palais de Chaillot

With its huge curved wings and magnificent views over the Trocadero gardens and the Eiffel Tower, the Palais de Chaillot is one of Paris’ major 1930s landmarks. Built for the 1937 L’Exposition Internationale des Arts et des Techniques dans la Vie Moderne in the place of the partly demolished Palais du Trocadero, the building houses a number of museums including the Musée National de la Marine, the Musée de l’Homme and the Théâtre National de Chaillot. It was designed by architects Louis-Hippolyte Boileau, Jacques Carlu and Léon Azéma and is decorated with quotations by French poet Paul Valéry. This is also where the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

Place du Trocadéro, 75016 Paris

Folies Bergère

Built as an opera house by the architect Plumeret, the Folies Bergère is located in the 9th Arrondissement. In 1887, the revue-style show “Place aux Jeunes” was so successful it turned into a popular nightlife spot, and in the 1890s it became known for its nude shows. American dancer Loiei Fuller also performed here in the early 1890s, evoking organic forms by manipulating an immense dress made of translucent silk. The front of the building is ornamented by a huge golden relief depicting a dancing woman which was added in 1926 by French architect and designer Maurice Picaud, known as “Pico”.

32 Rue Richer, 75009 Paris

Folies Bergere
© HRNet
Théâtre de la Michodière
© Michodi-Valérie Bellec

Théâtre de la Michodière

Inaugurated in 1925, the Théâtre de la Michodière was designed by architect Auguste Bluysen with interiors decorated in the art deco style by Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann. Back then, its red and gold auditorium could accommodate 800 spectators, and it was known for its boulevard plays. Today it has 700 seats and it is known for its comedies, having featured Le Diner de Cons, Hibernatus, Représailles, La Candidate, and Croque-Monsieur among many others. Today the theatre focuses on productions dealing with societal and contemporary issues.

4 Bis Rue de la Michodière, 75002 Paris

Cinéma du Louxor

Covered in mosaic columns and scarab beetles, this standout cinema in Montmartre, designed in 1921 by architect Henry Zipcy, was named after the Egyptian city of Luxor. In the 1980s it was turned into a nightclub and then closed its doors in 1988. After 20 years of neglect, in 2013 it reopened as a cinema after being rescued by locals and the mayor of Paris. The films screened at the Cinéma du Louxor are delightfully eclectic and art-house, and there is an Art Deco style exhibition space and café on the second floor, where you can enjoy a drink and views of Montmartre after the show.

170 Boulevard de Magenta, 75010 Paris

Cinéma du Louxor
©Reinhardhauke

Discover the Art Deco gems the French capital has to offer, all just a short ride away from the Hôtel Plaza Athénée.

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