Donald Deskey (1894–1989)
In early 1932, Donald Deskey submitted his designs through a competition in a bid to oversee the interior styling of the soon-to-be Radio City Music Hall. His work stood out and he was chosen to decorate the theater.
The project demanded that Deskey deliver on the modernity Art Deco aesthetics while meeting the need for functionality in a public building. He chose artists who worked in a wide range of styles and mediums, managing to weave them harmoniously into the fabric of the Radio City Music Hall we recognize today.
A replica of Deskey’s “Singing Women” design, a patterned textile covering the floor of the main auditorium, was reproduced in nylon and wool in the 1990s. Much of the RCMH building was refreshed at that time after narrowly escaping demolition.
The “Nicotine Room,” a Men’s Lounge on the second floor of Radio City Music Hall, houses Deskey’s The History of Nicotine (The Life of Saint Nicotine.) The print is stamped in a “tobacco brown” across aluminum foil wallpaper. Cleverly, the foil itself was produced by the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company .
(1) Nocera, Joe. How ‘New York, New York’ Went to the Top of the Heap.” The New York Times, Dec.11, 2015. Accessed on Jan.6, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/12/sports/baseball/how-new-york-new-york-became-a-no-1-at-yankees-games.html
(2) Editors of MSG Entertainment Group, LLC. “Roxy Suite.” MSG.com. MSG Entertainment Group, 2020. Accessed on October 9, 2020, https://www.msg.com/venue-rentals/radio-city-music-hall-roxy-suite
(3) Editors of the Smithsonian Design Museum website. “Drawing, Carpet.” Design: ‘Singing Women,’ Radio City Music Hall Main Auditorium, New York, NY.” CooperHewett.org. Smithsonian Design Museum, n.d. Accessed on October 9, 2020, https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18487013/#image-rights
(4) Iovine, Julie V. “Piece by Piece, a Faded Icon Regains Its Art deco Glow.” The New York Times, Sept.6, 1999. Accessed on October 11, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/1999/09/06/nyregion/piece-by-piece-a-faded-icon-regains-its-art-deco-glow.html