An Exhibition Highlighting the Ingenuity and Innovation of Works Presented at the World’s Fairs
On view at NOMA from April 12 to August 4, 2013
(New Orleans, LA) – From furniture and metalwork to jewelry and glass, the New Orleans Museum of Art’s upcoming exhibition, Inventing the Modern World, highlights the extraordinary artistic and industrial ingenuity of works presented at world’s fairs from 1851 to 1939. On view from April 12 to August 4, 2013, the exhibition spans the most dynamic period in craftsmanship and manufacturing history, and is organized chronologically and thematically around the concept of innovation. Through an astonishing selection of decorative and design objects, Inventing the Modern World: Decorative Arts at the World’s Fairs, 1851-1939, showcases the technological and scientific invention, cross-cultural influence, national pride, modernism and historicism that defined the world’s fairs, and which is especially resonant in New Orleans, the home of the 1884 and 1984 World’s Fairs.
The exhibition includes approximately 200 objects shown at major and minor world’s fairs from the London exhibition in 1851 to the 1939 New York fair, carefully chosen through a generous research grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Many of the featured objects will be seen in the United States for the first time.
“Curators looked at thousands of works from around the globe to find the objects that most compellingly represented innovation,” Susan M. Taylor, Director of NOMA said. “Inventing the Modern World brings them together for the first and only time, providing visitors with an opportunity to relive the sense of discovery and energy of the world’s fairs. NOMA is committed to creating an immersive experience that transports our audiences into those times and places, recalling the city’s own special history with the Fairs.”
The exhibition includes works made by noted international artists and manufacturers, ranging from a monumental 1850s Gothic Revival cabinet to a 1930s streamlined Art Deco glass chair, as well as masterworks of jewelry and objects in glass, silver, and porcelain by such world-renowned artisans and designers as Baccarat, Tiffany, Cartier and Sèvres. Other examples of innovation include a Thonet rocking chair that demonstrated new bentwood processes at the 1862 London International Exhibition; a vase with a complicated Black Iris glaze and electroplated mounts created by the Cincinnati-based Rookwood firm shown at the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle; and an alighted plate glass radiator by the Saint-Gobain manufactory from the 1937 Paris fair.
World’s fairs were the most important vehicle for debuting technological and stylistic advancements on an international stage. They functioned as showcases and marketplaces for design on a global, national and individual level. Above all, they democratized design unlike any previous or concurrent forum. Due to the impermanence of the fairs, decorative arts shown at the events are sometimes the only surviving elements. Decorative arts, particularly objects crafted in ceramic, metal, glass and wood, were the physical manifestation of the progressive ideals embodied in the fairs.
Inventing the Modern World is co-curated by Catherine L. Futter, the Helen Jane and Hugh “Pat” Uhlmann Curator of Decorative Arts at the Nelson-Atkins, and Jason T. Busch, Curatorial Chair for Collections and the Alan G. and Jane A. Lehman Curator for Decorative Arts and Design at the Carnegie Museum. Following NOMA’s presentation, the exhibition will travel to the Mint Museum in Charlotte, NC, in 2013.
A full-color catalogue, written by international scholars of the 19th and 20th century decorative arts will accompany the exhibition.
Inventing the Modern World: Decorative Arts at the World’s Fairs, 1851-1939 is co-organized by the 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., Lois and Lloyd Hawkins Jr. Foundation, The Gulf Tourism and Seafood Promotional Fund, and The New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Wednesdays are FREE for all museum visitors. Adults, $10; Seniors (65 and up) and Students, $8; Children 7-17, $6; Children 6 and under, free.
About NOMA and the Besthoff Sculpture Garden
The New Orleans Museum of Art, founded in 1910 by Isaac Delgado, houses over 35,000 art objects encompassing 4,000 years of world art. Works from the permanent collection, along with continuously changing temporary exhibitions, are on view in the museum’s 46 galleries Fridays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The adjacent Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden features work by over 60 artists, including several of the 20th century’s master sculptors. The Sculpture Garden is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. until 4:45 p.m. The New Orleans Museum of Art and the Besthoff Sculpture Garden are fully accessible to handicapped visitors and wheelchairs are available from the front desk. For more information about NOMA, call (504) 658-4100 or visit www.noma.org.