How do objects made for universal expositions condense the world and put it on display?
The World on View: Objects from Universal Expositions, 1851-1915 at the Arthur Ross Gallery is the culmination of a curatorial seminar that explores this crucial aspect in the history of globalization. The course and exhibition examine competing visions of the world and mechanisms of international exchange, materialized as objects displayed at world’s fairs.
Examples include an early electric water kettle; a photo-sculpture executed at the 1867 Paris exhibition; Chinese export porcelain and Japanese metalwork designed for international consumption; Manchester textiles made for the Senegalese market; Chitimacha tribal baskets woven in St. Louis in 1904; and a Paul Gauguin painting associated with the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle.
Such objects exemplified the period’s advances in art and technology, yet they also demonstrated an imperial frame for locking cultures into hierarchical dependency.
This exhibition brings together works dating from the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London through San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915, borrowed from the university’s as well as other local Philadelphia collections.
The exhibition will be on view through July 29. It is accompanied by an illustrated catalog.
The curatorial seminar was taught by André Dombrowski, associate professor of history of art, University of Pennsylvania.
Maker unknown, printed in Germany, from the World’s Columbian Exposition, on loan from the Hagley Museum and Library. The World’s Columbian Exposition (also known as the Chicago World’s Fair and Chicago Columbian Exposition) was held in Chicago in 1893 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the New World in 1492.