From nearly a century following their inception in 1851, world’s fairs were the most important vehicles for debuting advancements in modern living and democratizing design. The decorative arts they showcased were the physical manifestation of the progressive, economic, and technological ideals embodied in the fairs. Inventing the Modern World explores the ingenuity and diversity of decorative arts made for world’s fairs, from the London Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations in 1851 to the New York World’s Fair in 1939. Impermanent as the exhibitions were, decorative arts are among the only surviving elements.

Exhibit 2 (Inventing the Modern World)

Exhibit 3 (Inventing the Modern World)

Exhibit 4 (Inventing the Modern World)

Exhibit 1 (Inventing the Modern World)

Sponsors / Partners

Inventing the Modern World: Decorative Arts at the World’s Fairs, 1851-1939 is co-organized by Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, and The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Major support for this exhibition was provided by Wells Fargo, the Windgate Charitable Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.


Additional support for the presentation at the New Orleans Museum of Art is provided by: Jolie and Robert Shelton, International Well Testers, Inc., City of New Orleans, Frischhertz Electric Company, Lois and Lloyd Hawkins Jr. Foundation, The Gulf Tourism and Seafood Promotional Fund, Chevron and The New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau.