Exhibition World Issue 2 — 2020 - Page 52

Pages from history The Exhibition of Hope and Joy Vitali Vitaliev dusts off some pages from the 1900 Universal Exhibition in Paris ne of the undisputed gems of my ever- growing collection of antiquarian guide-books is the compact brick-red volume of 1900 L’Exposition et Paris au Vingtieme Siecle – Guide to the 1900 Universal Exhibition and to Paris in the 20th Century, published by the famous women’s clothes retailer Bon Marche. Apart from describing the main areas and sights of the French capital, the book – as the publishers announce proudly on its cover - contains “175 engravings and 9 coloured (sic) maps”. An unexpected surprise is hiding behind the back flap, right underneath the foldable map of 1900 Paris: a somewhat battered, yet still perfectly usable, tape measure! The 52 Issue 2 2020 choosy turn-of-the-century Paris shoppers were thrilled to find it, I am sure. Leafing through the slightly faded pages of that book, looking at the maps and touching the tape measure never fail to take me on a journey back in time to the year 1900, when Europe and the USA were still recovering from prolonged economic depression and the arts, technology and architecture were on the rise. It was a time of ground- breaking inventions and artistic masterpieces, many of which came to be represented at the 1900 Universal Exhibition. It was also a time of hope, destined to be shattered 14 years later by the outbreak of the First World War. In the year 1900 the world was full of optimism, and that was strongly Above: Aerial view of the Universal Exhibition, Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division felt on all the 216 hectares and in all the 33 official pavilions of the Universal Exhibition, opened on 14 April 1900 by Emile Loubet, the President of France. Donning our imaginary 1900 exhibition visitor attire (gentlemen – bowler hats and Norfolk jackets; ladies – puffed blouses and fluted skirts), let us take a quick tour of the show’s main highlights. The Eiffel Tower, first displayed during the previous Paris Exhibition of 1889 (to mark the centennial of the French Revolution) stole the show again in 1900: prominent on the vast exhibition grounds, it was – for the first time ever – painted bright golden yellow, a mesmerising sight, according to witnesses. Just like the spectacular Alexander III Bridge, connecting Les Invalides with the Champs-Elysees, specially built for the 1900 Exhibition. Lucky visitors (and there were over 50m of them for the duration of the Exhibition – from 14 April to 12 November, 1900) could not help being captivated by a huge Ferris wheel by the Palace of Electricity and fitted with five thousand multi-coloured incandescent lamps. There they could w w w.exhibitionworld.co.uk