Not far from the Olympic Stadium, in an area at several removes from the famous museums of central London, is The Geffrye Museum. Housed in a terraced row of 18th century almshouses with a shady green as buffer to the busy main road, this small museum is devoted to “English domestic interiors” and the furniture and interior manufacturers that used to dot this area.

To celebrate the Olympics, the Geffrye’s small exhibition “At Home with The World”, demonstrates objects we may regard as “English” quite often have their origin in other countries.

Known as “art decorators” for the home, Waring & Gillow’s output included “Carpets of Quality”. The label for the small W&G hand knotted wool rug in the Geffrye exhibition is brief.

What isn’t mentioned is the immense build up to the 1931 Colonial Exposition in Paris, a major public display of the goods, peoples and architecture found in France’s colonies (including several in Africa). The exposition was the culmination of multiple decades promotion by the French government of its colonial empire, and demonstrated the origins of many of the design motifs presented in the influential 1925 Paris International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts. (Worth noting the term “Art Deco” is relatively recent. During the time in question the style was called “Art Moderne.”)

It’s reasonable to assume Serge Chermayeff and French designer Paul Follot who jointly headed the Modern Art Studio of Waring & Gillow’s department store at 164-180 Oxford Street in central London, were more than familiar with the influence of African art on western artists and designers, with famous case in point Pablo Picasso. DJ

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