The Durban Art Deco Society held its Annual General Meeting at the Phansi Museum on Sunday 11 November, 2018, with some 25 members attending. Chairperson Donald Davies recounted events during the past year:
* talk on East Johannesburg Art Deco by Johannesburg architect Jeff Cole at preceding AGM
* outing to view Art Deco and Retro furniture and fittings at House Greyling
* guided tours given to two camera clubs with a view to improving our photo stock for publication
* Gillespie Street walkabout led by conservation architect Robert Brusse
* talk by Prof Andre van Graan on Cape Town’s Art Deco buildings and how this relates to Durban
* second tour of the Art Deco buildings at UKZN (Howard College and MTB) led by Prof Franco Frescura
* Durban University of Technology dual purpose Art Deco furniture design competition with prizes donated by Francis Architects
* annual tour of the Sun Coast Hotel complex and other Art Deco buildings given to the Durban University of Technology Interior Design students
* interview by Liza Fabbian of a French Radio station
This being the 11th November 2018, exactly 100 years since the Armistice at the end of the First World War, at 11.00 am members stood in silence for one minute in memory of the sacrifices made by so many in that war.
Respects were also paid to two Society members who died in the preceding year:
+ Helen Labuschagne: founding committee member and Honorary Secretary of both the Art Deco Society and the Durban Heritage Society – a dedicated and hardworking monitor of all things architectural in Durban (the Society has acquired Helen’s many documents and books for its archives).
+ Rod Choromanski: multi-talented and brilliant Architect, recently winner of “the best building in Africa” award of the Africa Architectural Competition, for his design of the uMkhumbane Cultural Museum.
TALK DELIVERED BY PROF FRANCO FRESCURA:
An interesting and typically controversial presentation was delivered by Prof Franco Frecura on “A History of Art Deco”. Two important themes that emerged in this talk were (1) that the features that we now glibly label “Art Deco” emerged over an extended period, starting as early as the late 1800’s, from diffuse sources and art movements, and (2) that, as a result, what we group today as Art Deco should have more flexible boundaries to allow for additional style features that might be incorporated in a design.
A typical presentation about Art Deco refers to the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris in 1925 as the origin of Art Deco. However, Art Deco as we understand it now, has some elements associated with earlier movements such as Dada and Futurism. Even documents associated with the Paris exhibition were somewhat mixed in terms of the decorative elements used.
In certain totalitarian countries, Art Deco was only expressed in the form of domineering, “brutalistic” buildings whereas in others the ideas migrated into fashion and jewellery. As the “modern” age gathered pace, it was expressed in the form of luxury ocean liners and high-speed trains and cars, and even home appliances. Some of the pictures used by Prof Frescura to highlight the diffuse and evolving origins of Art Deco are attached.