Exhibit Of World’s Fair Decorative Arts, 1851-1939, Opens At NOMA

By Doug MacCash, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

Click to read the article on NOLA.com

Works by Baccarat, Tiffany, Cartier, Sèvres and other legendary designers are awaiting art lovers at the New Orleans Museum of Art on Friday night (April 12) at the opening of “Inventing the Modern World: Decorative Arts at the World’s Fairs, 1851-1939.” The show is an exhibit of 200 exquisite artifacts that marked the height of artistry in their eras. Innovations in ceramics, fine metalworking, glass-making and furniture craft were part of the draw during the golden era of World’s Fairs, when the industrial era nations united at international capitals to celebrate and share technological and fashionable advancement in a time before mass communication.

The exhibit includes objects spanning the London exhibition in 1851 to the 1939 New York fair.

Historically speaking, New Orleans was part of the picture, hosting the World Cotton Centennial in 1884, where savant ceramist George Ohr revealed his work to an international audience. Visitors to NOMA can find a sculptural remnant of the 1884 fair – a ceramic pyramid pedestal not far away at the corner of Esplanade Avenue and North Tonti Street. New Orleans also presented the Louisiana World Exposition 1984. An exhibit of photographs of the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition by Joshua Mann Pailet are on display in NOMA’s Great Hall, leading to the “Inventing the Modern World” exhibition.

According to preview publicity, among the most interesting items to be found at “Inventing the Modern World” are a Thonet rocking chair that illustrated the then-new bentwood processes at the 1862 London International Exhibition; a vase with a complicated Black Iris glaze and high-tech electroplated mounts created by the Cincinnati-based Rookwood firm shown at the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle; and a lighted plate glass radiator by the Saint-Gobain manufactory from the 1937 Paris fair.

The exhibit, which was produced by the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, continues through Aug. 4.

Inventing the Modern World: Decorative Arts at the World’s Fairs, 1851-1939

  • What: A collection of ceramics, fine metalworking, glassmaking and furniture craft that were displayed at golden era of World’s Fairs.
  • Where: The New Orleans Museum of Art, One Collins C. Diboll Circle, City Park.
  • When: The exhibit opens with a reception from 5 to 9 Friday (April 12) and continues through Aug. 4. Regular museum hours are Fridays from 11 a.m. to 9; Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 6; and Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5.
  • Opening reception: The exhibit opens with a reception from 5 to 9 Friday, with a lecture by “Inventing the Modern World” curators Catherine Futter of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City and Jason Busch of the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh from 6 to 7. The reception will also include a performance titled “Ole! Spanish Music at the World’s Fairs” by Marta Espinos from 5:30 to 8 and an all-ages art activity from 5 to 8. An Isidore Newman School dance performance takes place in the Besthoff Sculpture Garden from 6 to 7 p.m.
  • Admission: Adults, $10; Seniors (65 and up) and Students, $8; Children 7-17, $6; Children 6 and younger, free. Wednesdays are free for all museum visitors.
  • More information: Call 504.658.4100 or visit the museum website.