Museum Meets “The Jazz Age”

Art exhibit boasts joy, tragedy

Showcasing glamor, extravagance and liberation, “The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s” opened at the Cleveland Museum of Art on September 30, the first major museum exhibition devoted to American artistic preference and lifestyle during the 1920s.

The result of a collaboration between the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City, “The Jazz Age” transports the visitor to the Roaring Twenties, a time when business boomed, avant-garde artists defied imminently passé standards and the Great War’s conclusion spawned an excessive thirst for life.  

By displaying both traditional forms of art and functional daily pieces while providing historical background, “The Jazz Age” offers an all-encompassing look into wealthy lifestyles of the 1920s.  Featuring a wide range of the time’s most sumptuous objects such as diamond jewelry by Cartier and Tiffany & Co., Chanel dresses, a colossal Parisian chandelier fit for a crash in the local opera house and a first-class, shining, red roadster, the exhibit offered a comprehensive walk in the scandalously high-heeled, T-strapped pumps of a flapper. In addition to the sparkling visual delights, the soothing background jazz music amplified the exhibit’s time-travel-like effects.

Not only did “The Jazz Age” present the typical, wealthy, American, 1920s’ taste in art, but it highlighted the era’s and certain works’ connections to Cleveland.  For example, Cleveland’s Terminal Tower, the second-tallest building in the world upon completion, was constructed in the Art Deco fashion between 1926 and 1930. Additionally, the exhibit emphasized the international influence of American art with many works created in or inspired by Paris, Vienna and Japan.

When touring “The Jazz Age,” one can easily grasp and take part in the era’s excitement, joie de vivre and liberating absence of caution while understanding how such a devastating war could spur such profligate behavior. One will also recognize how this frivolous period triggered the worst economic crisis in the United States’ history.  

For a fun and educational experience to enjoy with friends or by yourself, spend at least one hour touring “The Jazz Age” before it closes on Jan. 14, 2018, and do not forget to peruse the Jazz Age-themed gift shop just outside the exhibit hall.  As tickets are free for Case Western Reserve University students and $15 for general admission, take advantage of the opportunity to see the first exhibit based on American taste in design during one of the most groundbreaking and opulent periods of American history.


Exhibit: “The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s”

Duration: Sept. 30 – Jan. 14

Price: Free for CWRU Students, $15 for general admittance