Vivid colours, arabesques, motifs … Ornamentation is naturally everywhere. Whether it be in the way we adorn our bodies, brighten up our homes or decorate our villages with flowers; nevertheless, at the beginning of the 20th century, a strong conviction was developing … ornamentation should disappear. 

The exhibition, Ornamentation is a crime tells the story of a disappearance, in 10 parts. In 1908, the architect and designer, Adolf Loos published a violent pamphlet called Ornamentation is a crime, attacking the “ornamental scourge of art”. Considered as pointless, bourgeois and primitive, ornamentation was thus “a relic of the past” which needed to be eradicated. 

It clashed with a society in the throes of major change: reconstruction and post-war shortages, Western industrialization, changes in consumer habits… In the 1950’s functionalist ideology was reaching its peak. 

Certain designers, such as Dieter Rams, advocated a design of absolute sobriety. Others however were already opposing this cold functionalism, symbols of a modernity which had become banal and of the perverse effects of consumer society. Pop-culture and the Hippie movement then came to play a decisive role. 


Agnès Lepicard
Heritage curator of the MAMC+
Head of the collections department

Artists presented

Atelier Populaire Ex - École des Beaux-Arts (Paris), Mario Bellini, Marcel Breuer, René-Jean Caillette, Alexander Calder, Joe Colombo, William Crawford, CésarvDomela, Charles Eames, Ray Eames, Jürgen Greubel, Pierre Guariche, Hans Gugelot, Dieter Rams, Auguste Herbin, Jacques Hitier, Josef Hoffmann, Alan Irvine, Arne Jacobsen, Alain Jacquet, Ito Josué, Wilhelm Kienzle, Kaare Klint, Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret, Jules Emile Leleu, Raymond Loewy, Dietrich Lubs, Anthony Malden, Bruno Mathsson, Joseph Motte, Olivier Mourgue, Gerd Alfred Müller, Robert Oberheim, Jean Partenay, Pierre Paulin, Charlotte Perriand, Hans Pieck, Jean Prouvé, Quasar, Dieter Rams, Rietveld Gerrit T, Afra et Tobia Scarpa, Florian Seiffert, Gustav Seegel, Flora Steiger-Crawford, Hugues Steiner, Giotto Stoppino, Gosta Thames, Hugo Blomberg, Ralph Lysell, Frères Thonet, Michaël Thonet, Silas Earl Tupper, Reinhold Weiss, Elton F. Whitfill, Sori Yanagi

"A chair overloaded with ornamentation is no longer a chair; it is a “decorative intention in the form of a chair”. When a chair is really and totally ornamental, you can no longer sit on it."
Le Corbusier

An exhibition in 10 sections

Major design names