Art deco gem in Sydney

Last week I went to see a French film about the French in Vietnam and CambodiaEmpire of the Mid South‘ and how appropriate that it was shown in an authentic Art Deco cinema. What is the connection you might ask….  The French led the revolution that Art Deco brought to the world of art and design and also colonised countries in South East Asia.  On my travels in that region, I have seen first hand some immaculately restored buildings from that era and at the same time lamented the many decrepit Art Deco buildings that have not been cared for.

It was my first visit to the Hayden Orpheum and not being a resident of Sydney I have only just learned that it was restored by its owner Mike Walsh, who is widely known in Australia for his former television talk shows.

Today it houses several cinemas and in one,  a Wurlitzer organ is still in use.  The Art Deco era was the most radical time in the the western world for sweeping change in design. The decorative fussiness of Art Nouveau gave way to Art Deco’s angular, geometric and streamlined shapes in both the built environment and fashion.  All the avant-garde artists fully embraced it with function and form almost acquiring equal position. I have a few pieces designed in that era, some are authentic and some were reproduced by licence, an example are my two Eileen Grey coffee tables in chrome and glass, they still look contemporary.

I jumped up and took this before they raised the curtain. It is a bit wonky due to my haste.

Even the ladies powder room lured me to take a photo. These designs bring in some of the flowing more organic lines of the earlier period of Art Nouveau but simply pared back. Some Balinese artists have never abandoned this style as anyone who has been to Bali would attest.

The sheer glamour of art deco was everywhere and I was struck by how everything looked fresh.

The ruched curtain had even more ruching and frills above.  A feast for the eyes whilst waiting for the movie to begin.

The walls on either side of the stage were decorated with an identical sculptural relief of a lady in a diving position. Symmetry was a cornerstone of Art Deco.

Just to share my passion further, here is one of my two art deco clocks, this small one sits on my desk and is my favourite.  The face says made in France and I found it in a second hand shop in Vietnam. It works when I remember to wind it up.If we were in France this sign would say SORTIE – or until my next visit to the Hayden Orpheum, 380 Military Road, Cremorne.


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  1. #1 by Celia on March 28, 2011 - 8:02 am

    Lovely Roz! I never even knew this art deco treasure existed in Sydney, although the Orpheum is an old institution. Thanks for taking such fabulous pics!

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