Updated: Mar 9
This Art Deco Miami poster celebrates the establishment of the art deco style in the hotels of South Beach, Miami.
Before the arrival of automobile entrepreneur Carl Fisher for his vacation in 1910, the area now known as Miami Beach was a swampy, mosquito infested wasteland. Two years later, Fisher invested in a strip of land east of Biscayne Bay, which he named “Miami Beach” and began developing it as a playground for his many friends in the auto industry. He began building luxury hotels, and was enough of a visionary to see the fashionable appeal of the Art Deco styling that was booming in Europe. He hired Florida architects Henry Hohauser and Lawrence Murray Dixon to create the trademark styling that would attract the world’s sophisticated elite to the area.
But Fisher’s empire collapsed with the Wall Street crash of 1929 and the subsequent Great
Depression and his fortune was lost, leaving it to others to carry on developing the Miami playground resort. In time, Art Deco style fell out of fashion, and much larger complexes began to appear, strongly influenced by the architecture of Mies van der Rohe and the “International Style”, and the South Beach Art Deco district fell into disrepair and decay.
By the late 1950s, American holiday makers began to choose far-flung destinations afforded them by the introduction of large passenger aircraft, and Miami’s reputation switched from being the playground for the wealthy and glamourous, to a resort for retirees. Many of the South Beach Art Deco hotels were demolished to make way for retirement condominiums.
The remaining hotels of the South Beach area were destined for the same fate until Community activist Barbara Baer Capitman stepped in and launched a campaign to preserve the district and set up the Miami Design Preservation League. Gradually the buildings became recognised and restored, and following the worldwide popularity of 1980s TV show ‘Miami Vice’, tourists once again returned to the district.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, after the collapse of the Sunbeam-Talbot company in 1936, the Anglo-Italian engineer, Antonio Lago secured a management buy-out to create the Talbot-Lago motor company in Suresnes, just outside Paris. It was Lago’s ambition to produce a range of exclusive and expensive sports cars that would challenge the best on the market. In collaboration with his chief engineer Walter Brecchia, a brand-new engine was built onto a lightweight chassis, with independent front suspension along with a Wilson gearbox, and the basis of his new range of vehicles was established.
At this stage, the hot coach-builders of the time, Figoni et Falaschi, were called in to style the bodywork for this new range. It is generally accepted that the dynamic illustrations of the French automobile artist Geo Ham strongly influenced the company to take a bold direction in their designs. The company’s first example of their trade-mark aerodynamic design was to be seen on the hugely successful 1935 Delahaye 135, and the duo were in great demand.
The result of the Talbot commission was the Talbot-Lago T150C, considered at the time to be the most beautiful car in the world. The design, known as the ‘Goutte d’Eau’ or teardrop, was not only famed for its remarkable styling, but also became successful on the racing circuit, collecting honours at Le Mans 24 Hours and at the French Grand Prix.
But decline, which so often seems inevitable with radical, visionary stylists, set in, and in 1959 Talbot were taken over by Simca.
This poster was created as a tribute to the interwar art movement known as Art Deco, which became an enduring influence on both sides of the Atlantic. It was one of the first truly international styles, but its dominance ended with the outbreak of the second World War and the rise of strictly functional and unadorned styles that followed.