The vogue for things African influenced nearly every aspect of Art Deco style - its decoration, forms, materials and techniques. African art inspired a renewal of decoration, providing an ancient guide towards modernity. Its geometric patterns and apparently spontaneous forms could be readily adapted to the contemporary need to respond in new ways to the challenges of modern urban life.

Paul Guillaume acknowledged it's importance for avant-garde art: before 1905 art in France and indeed in all Europe, was menaced by extinction. Five years later, the enthusiasm, the joy of the painters, their fever for excitement, made it apparent that a new renaissance had taken place. Not less evident was it that the honour of this renaissance belonged to Negro art... one may almost say that there was a form of feeling, architecture of thought, a subtle expression of the most profound forces of life, which have been extracted from Negro civilization.

But W.E.B. Du Bois brilliantly summed up the wider contemporary passion for Africa and the articulating tensions between culture and nature, civilization and the primitive when he wrote in 1926, 'the Congo is flooding the Acropolis'.

Source: Art Deco 1910-1939
Edited by Charlotte Benton, Tim Benton and Ghislaine Wood
Published by Victoria and Albert Museum Publications, London

DeCoene: Night Table
Pili Pili: Painting
Mwenze: Painting
Bugatti: Bench
Tamba: Sculpture