Pick of the Picture Books: Paris/ New York: Design, Fashion, Culture 1925-1940, Edited by Donald Albrecht

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The Independent Culture

In design, how many styles persist as an instant visual shorthand for elegant fun and relaxed sophistication more than 80 years after their creation? There's only one answer to that question: the Art Deco of the 1920s and 1930s, whose gleaming chrome, sinuous curving lines and luxurious geometry remain a must-have for restaurateurs keen to ride out the recession.

In its classic forms, Art Deco, like its related styles (from "International" modernism to Surrealism), was a transatlantic exchange between a rivalrous pair of taste-making metropolises. Edited by Donald Albrecht, Paris/ New York: Design, Fashion, Culture 1925-1940 (Monacelli Press, £28) tells this tale of two fashion-hungry cities in essays that cover the artistic ground from hotel and restaurant interiors (not to mention the liner Normandie) to stage sets, jazz culture, skyscrapers and haute couture.

After the Art Deco exhibition in Paris in 1925, US manufacturers rushed to catch up with the look of a new age. From pepper pots to party dresses, they turned an elite style into a suburban standby. Modern life has never looked sleeker or more streamlined.

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