The Democratic Design of the Union des Artistes Modernes

The Democratic Design of the Union des Artistes Modernes

Until last week, I was not aware of the Union des Artistes Modernes (UAM), but now this collective that was formed in France in 1929 has become a new obsession of mine. While I was on vacation in Paris, I stumbled upon an exhibit at the Centre Pompidou devoted to the substantial contributions and accomplishments of decorative artists and architects that made up the group.

The UAM was organized by Robert Mallet-Stevens to reject establishment contemporary movements (such as Art Deco), and groups like the Society des Artistes-Decorateurs whose finished works and products largely catered to lavish buyers of an elite class.

The union’s mission was to prioritize functionality over ornament and democratize design for ordinary people using industrial materials and modern, clean lines. Several notable designers and architects cut their teeth with the UAM, including Le Corbusier, Joan Miro, Jean Prouvé, and Sonia Delaunay.

The group disbanded during World War II, but reformed and had active membership through 1958.