Exhibition: The 1873 Vienna World’s Fair Revisited: Egypt and Japan as Europe’s “Orient” (MAK)

Date of event:   28/06/2023 − 22/10/2023

Title: The 1873 Vienna World’s Fair Revisited: Egypt and Japan as Europe’s “Orient”
Duration: 28 June 2023 to 22 October 2023
Institution: Museum of Applied Arts (MAK), Vienna, Austria

On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the 1873 Vienna World’s Fair, the MAK sets out to explore a critical aspect of this prestigious international show: the “Orient” as a construct of 19th-century Orientalism.

Drawing on Egypt and Japan as examples, which in the contemporary worldview were often thought to be part of the region referred to as the “Orient,” the exhibition THE 1873 VIENNA WORLD’S FAIR REVISITED: Egypt and Japan as Europe’s “Orient” explores Orientalism from various angles.

The Vienna World’s Fair of 1873 had a considerable impact on the history of the MAK Collection. It marked the first time that Japan was formally invited to participate as a nation, and it seized the exhibition as an opportunity to present itself through a kaleidoscope of artworks. Many of these were subsequently given as presents by the Japanese government to European museums, including the Imperial Royal Austrian Museum of Art and Industry (today’s MAK). The MAK possesses a key collection on the Vienna World’s Fair, many of the objects selected for this exhibition are on display in Austria for the first time in over a century.

The exhibition explores a range of questions: Who were the actors that conceptualized and designed the country pavilions for the 1873 fair? What was the political, cultural, and discursive setting that informed aesthetic decisions? Through which aesthetic and symbolic practices and cultural policy approaches did participating countries negotiate their Orientalist worldviews, and how did these worldviews shift after 1873?

The exhibition opens with portraits of two key European figures: the Austrian Czech architect Franz (František) Schmoranz Jr. (1845–1892) and the German chemist Gottfried Wagener (1831–1892). Commissioned by the Khedive of Egypt, Schmoranz was tasked with designing the Khedivate’s pavilion, while Wagener was assigned to draft the Japanese complex.

For more information, please visit the website here.

Image: View of the Rotunda of the 1873 Vienna World’s Fair © MAK