Thursday / January 17, 2019 / 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM

The Art Deco Visual Universe

The Cliff Dwellers, 200 South Michigan Avenue, 22nd floor, Chicago

Art Deco as a style term was invented in the 1960s. It represented a genuine popular revolt against the accepted wisdom of the Museum of Modern Art and the advocates of avant garde modernism. Despite almost continuous opposition from academics, it has increasingly become a standard art historical term for architecture, graphic design, product and industrial design between the two world wars. In Art Deco Chicago we defined it as much of the modern design production between 1910 and 1960 that was neither strict historical revival on the one hand or avant garde on the other. Seen in this light Art Deco architecture and design - from deco pioneers like Frank Lloyd Wright or Ludwig Hoffmann to the stripped-down traditional buildings of the postwar decades such as the Ferguson Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago, or automobiles from Detroit - can be seen as the mainstream of modern design, a real international style, and the last genuinely popular design paradigm.

Speaker: Robert Bruegmann is an historian and critic of the built environment and editor of Art Deco Chicago: Designing Modern America, published in October 2018 by the Chicago Art Deco Society (distributed by Yale University Press). Robert received his PhD in art history from the University of Pennsylvania in 1976 and since 1979 has taught at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Art History, Architecture and Urban Planning. Among his books are the award-winning The Architects and the City: Holabird & Roche of Chicago 1880-1918 (1998), the controversial Sprawl: A Compact History (2005), and The Architecture of Harry Weese (2010). 

Art Deco Chicago explores Chicago's pivotal role in developing the architecture, graphic design, and product design that came to define middle-class style in the twentieth century. Frank Lloyd Wright’s lost Midway Gardens, the iconic Sunbeam Mixmaster, and Marshall Field’s famed window displays: despite the differences in scale and medium, each belongs to the broad current of an Art Deco style that developed in Chicago in the first half of the twentieth century. This ambitious overview of the city’s architectural, product, industrial, and graphic design between 1910 and 1950 offers a fresh perspective on a style that would come to represent the dominant mode of modernism for the American middle class.

The book accompanies Modern by Design: Chicago Streamlines America, an exhibition at the Chicago History Museum which explores and celebrates Chicago’s pivotal role in the development of modern American design. Open through December 1, 2019.

Books will be available for purchase and signing at this event.

Cocktails:                  Cash bar opens at 4:30 p.m.

Free Program:           Begins 6:15 p.m.

Dinner:                      Available after the program, a la carte. Guests pay for themselves; club members charge to their house account.

Reservations for dinner are requested: or call 312-922-8080. Discount parking is available after 4:00 at the garage located at 17 East Adams Street (enter on Adams between Wabash and State). Ask for a discount coupon at the club's check-in desk.


Sponsored By

The Cliff Dwellers, Society of Architectural Historians, Friends of Downtown, and AIA Chicago

Member Price


Non Member Price