Sunday, June 24th, 2018

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CMA’s Jazz Age exhibit brings back glamour of 1920s



The Roaring Twenties gave America Babe Ruth, Bix Beiderbecke and bathtub gin. It was an age of both excess and artistry, a transitional era in the history of an evolving nation.

The Cleveland Museum of Art’s new exhibit The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s pays homage to the era with a dazzling collection of jewelry, fashion, motorcars, paintings and decorative arts. Co-organized by the museum and the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, it is the first major museum exhibition to center on American art and design during the 1920s and early 1930s.

With more than 300 items featuring the events and personalities that highlight the era on view in the Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation Hall, the exhibition explores European influences, American lifestyles, artistic movements and the innovation of the era.

“This is a blockbuster show, gorgeous, bountiful and exhilarating,” said William Griswold, CMA director. “It explores the creative impulses that shaped American taste in that dynamic area as well as new ideas that challenged the status quo.”

Organized in six sections, The Jazz Age reveals a decade of contrasts with new ideas challenging more traditional styles.

“This is the first exhibition that really looks at the era from an American perspective, the American taste and style,” said Stephen Harrison, the museum’s curator of decorative art and design. “It’s a visual feast for the eyes – the color, the glamour, the richness of design, use of new materials and technological innovations.”

While the era has often by dismissed as a time defined by flappers and speakeasies, the 1920s were known for advancements in art, fashion and technology.

“The 1920s have often been overlooked,” said Harrison. “There were monumental changes in design…it was a time of transitioning from the old world to the new. World War I had ripped away the last vestiges of the 19th Century. People were presented with a clean slate.”

Along with Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight, the discovery of King Tut’s tomb was a pivotal event of the era. “The design world went mad for Egyptian taste after that,” said Harrison.

The Jazz Age exhibit, which runs through Jan. 14, has already proved to be a popular destination for high school and college groups. “These works lend themselves well to discussions,” said Harrison.

Tickets to The Jazz Age are $15 for adults, $13 for senior citizens and college students and $7 for children ages 6-17 and member guests. Admission is free for CMA members and children five and younger. All tickets include an audio tour that includes extended interpretations of 21 of the exhibit’s artworks.

An exhibition catalogue and a Jazz Age CD are available in the CMA Store or online at For more information on the exhibit, visit

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