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Designs for Midland Hotel, Hill & Dean Monroe Harvey, 1932 © RIBA Collections

Art Deco By The Sea at The Sainsbury Centre of Visual Arts, Norwich

In February 2020, the Sainsbury Centre will open Art Deco by the Sea, an exciting new exhibition examining British coastal culture between the First and Second World Wars and the Art Deco style. The exhibition will explore how Art Deco transformed the British seaside in a new age of mass tourism.

It will examine how coastal resorts were modernised, how new resorts were established and how iconic examples of Art Deco architecture from hotels and apartment blocks to cinemas and amusement parks altered the look of the British seafront. From the Midland Hotel in Morecambe to the villas of Frinton-on-Sea or Hunstanton, Art Deco became the seaside style.

Summer, Ronaldson, 1928 © Manchester Art Gallery

The show will also explore how the seaside became a site for innovative modern manufacture, featuring companies such as Poole Pottery, ECKO radios and Crysède textiles, all known for their striking modern designs. Major seaside employers, these companies produced popular Art Deco styled products exported all over the world.

The 1920s and 30s witnessed the advent of the healthy body culture, when sunbathing, swimming and a host of other outdoor activities became fashionable.

The development of amenities such as lidos and golf courses changed the look of seaside resorts while holiday camps such as Butlin's provided new types of holiday experience.

Portobello Lido, 1936, Bruce Peter Collection jpeg

The show will explore coastal amusements and activities, featuring Art Deco fashion, and for the first time including the more ephemeral, popular culture of the seaside such as circuses, fairgrounds, pleasure parks, fun fairs and illuminations. In addition, a significant group of paintings will explore how a fashion for realism underpinned much imagery of the seaside during the period.

Early Morning Newlyn, Procter, 1928 © The Estate of Dod Procter Bridgeman Images

The show will include around 150 works in all media including paintings, posters, brochures, drawings, photographs, fashion, furniture, ceramics and textiles. It will be drawn from public and private collections in the UK. The exhibition will feature works by Serge Chermayeff, Dame Laura Knight, Gluck, Wells Coates, Oliver Hill, Tom Purvis, Septimus Scott, Truda Carter, Alvar Aalto, Jean Dunand, ECKO radios and Poole Pottery.

New Brighton and Wallasey, Scott, 1923-47 © National Railway Museum, Science Society Picture Library

Ghislaine Wood, curator of the exhibition said, “The exhibition will explore how Art Deco became the key style for pleasure and leisure, transforming coastal resorts and coming to symbolise new values for people experiencingnewfreedoms. Art Deco had enormous appeal for its glamour and accessibility, which still attracts audiences today.”

The exhibition is curated by Ghislaine Wood, Acting Director of the Sainsbury Centre. A major new publication will accompany the show edited by Ghislaine Wood with essays by Professor Bruce Peter, Glasgow School of Art; Gill Saunders, Victoria & Albert Museum and Professor Vanessa Toulmin, Sheffield University.

Sainsbury Centre

The Four Streamliners, Purvis, 1937 © National Railway Museum, Science Society Picture Library

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