The Display of Art: Exhibitions, Biennials, Salons: Art at World's Fairs

Definitions and resources related to historical and contemporary exhibitions.

World's Fairs

List of World's Fairs. A chronological listing of fairs, both held and cancelled, dating from 1756 posted by Wikipedia.

Dictionary of Fairs

Findling, John E. Historical Dictionary of World's Fairs and Expositions, 1851-1988. Call Number: T395 .H57 1990. New York: Greenwood Press, 1990. Features more than 90 essays, each dealing with a world's fair or exposition held between 1851 and 1988, emphasizing the most significant features of the fair and providing annotated bibliographies. 

Art Exhibitions at World's Fairs

Brief History of World's Fairs

World's Fairs, also called Exposition Universalle or Great Exhibitions, are large-scale industrial and cultural exhibitions in which several nations participate. Conceived as encyclopedic in nature, encompassing products from all nations, they combined a passion for the organization of knowledge with an optimism about the benefits of industrial development. The Society of Arts in London mounted such exhibitions since 1761 but including only models and drawings of industrial machinery rather than the products themselves.

The Great Exhibition of Products of Industry of All Nations, held at the Crystal Palace in London in 1851, is recognized as the first true World's Fair and it was succeeded by an international exhibition held every few years in a major city. The Great Exhibition was the first to include the fine arts as a category and, in 1855 at the Exposition Universelle in Paris, a full-scale fine arts exhibition was included among the categories.

International exhibitions have also helped spread wide-ranging design styles. The influence of Art Nouveau was greatly enhanced by the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900 while the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, held in Paris in 1925, popularized the Art Deco style named after it.

Although the great age of international exhibitions really ended with the New York World’s Fair of 1939–40, such exhibitions continue to be held regularly and are increasingly dominated by multinational corporations and the desire to promote tourism.

Great Exhibitions

Great Exhibitions of the 19th Century. As a part of its Special Subject Collections in Art History, the University Library of Heidelberg houses a large number of titles dealing with the Great Exhibitions of the 19th century. The online collection contains digitized versions of research literature, contemporary exhibition catalogues, eye-witness reports or historical descriptions.

Bibliographies of World's Fairs

Rydell, Robert W. The Books of the Fairs: Materials about World's Fairs, 1834-1916, in the Smithsonian Institution Libraries. Call Number: Z5883 .S63 1991. Chicago: American Library Association, 1992.  This volume is a guide both to the portion of the Smithsonian Institutes Library collection that was produced between 1834 and 1916 and to a microfilm collection containing most--not all--of the SIL materials for that period. The checklist is first organized chronologically by year, then alphabetically by city where the exposition took place, then by name of fair

Revisiting World's Fairs and International Expositions: A Selected Bibliography, 1992-2004. Compiled by Bridget Burke, Cathy Serafica, and Martha Higgins. Sponsored by the Smithsonian Institute, this website allows you to view citations by individual fair/exposition, by date, or by publication format. The site also includes some images from the publications.