Two hundred shades of blue silk thread make up a violent ocean sea. Black wood lacquered with Japanese motifs line the outside of the screen. Gold pieces are arranged along the sides and cover the bottom corners. This piece, “Morning Sea,” is one that could be shown to an audience all over the world.
Morning Sea is one piece that comes to my mind when I think about the world’s fair, an exhibit of art pieces from all over the world. The intricate designs and features made each piece from each individual country come to life. By just glancing at the screen, I can imagine myself being at the beach and listening to the waves.
As I entered the maze-like opening to the exhibit, my attention was immediately drawn to the first wall of the maze: it was lit up by a projector, flashing images from fairs in London in 1851, Chicago in 1893 and St. Louis in 1904. Uplifting carnival music filled my ears. I already felt like I was at the London world’s fair in 1851.
A gothic style bookcase sat directly across from the opening. Its dark wood and red and blue glass made up the cabinets. A piano made out of paper mache stood against the white wall. Tiffany jewelry and teapots were placed in different cases that portray the Japanese interpretation of nature.
I thought I would end up looking at dull silver artwork, but I saw bright orange, lime green and yellow pieces of enamel sitting against a silver teapot next to a radiant colored locket. The vibrance made me look forward to seeing what the rest of the tour would bring.
The Nelson portrays the cultures of each city by century. It displays art, architecture and even food through the pieces that the various nations exhibited at past fairs. All of the vases, furniture and jewelry come with a story, or reflect on a leader’s life — like King Arthur. Walking through the exhibit space, the overwhelming amount of art gave me a feel for the innovation that is brought by presenting a city’s culture.
The vase I was looking at reminded me of medieval times. I could picture myself looking at churches, castles and dark stone walls as I noticed the detail in the piece.
Once you turn the corner away from the video clips, cases of objects are organized by the dates in which they were presented. The Tennyson vase is the first piece you see as you enter the exhibit. King Arthur and his three queens are crafted into the front of the vase, made of hammered silver. Blue velvet covers the middle to the bottom of it. The start of the tour takes you through British culture and its pride from the London fair.
Before walking into the early 1900s exhibit, I noticed the Art Nouveau. An asymmetrical, silver plated vanity sat on a ledge in the corner of the tour. Its Japanese-inspired design stood out because of its sinuous lines and motifs. There was a vast amount of detail carved into the silver that made this piece so different from others. Every inch of the vanity had vines, flowers and animals arranged to represent a nature motif.
Amongst all of the decorative arts, there are cases full of jewelry including Rococo Art Nouveau – a floral or animal pattern – Christian mosaics and Japanese-inspired works, just to name a few. A Tiffany and Co. French locket displays a turquoise grasshopper perched on vivid yellow ground: these bright radiant colors started to show more in the later period artwork. I became more interested in these illuminating pieces – they weren’t dull like the other aluminum or silver necklaces and bracelets. It made the jewelry come to life, by nature features and bright shades of yellow and green.
As I moved farther down into the 1900s, I saw that the New York fair presented new ideas for modern technology, furniture and mass production. Clear glass remained a symbol for modern style. The “Z” clock made out of glass, enamel and chromium-plated steel emphasized the simplicity of the era. A circular glass table held up by three glass cylinders revealed the modernism of furniture along with a glass covered chair.
The world’s fair shows us visibly that from London to New York, art, furniture and jewelry transformed from the history of the country to a more modern structure – within 80 years. Each city presented their culture and pride through their sophisticated pieces.