International expositions which are also reffered to as world fairs or expos have a great history that runs back to more than one and a half century. The very first world expo to display some industry works of All Nations was held in the year 1851 and this was in London (Gilbert 32). The expo took six months and ever since, such expos have been held in different regions in the entire world with the aim of giving countries a chance to trade what they have to the rest of the nations across the globe (Ganz 49). In 1928, diplomatic convention established the BIE (Bureau International des Exhibition) to regulate both the quality as well as the frequency at which these world fairs would be held.
The BIE headquarters, which is a full-voting member, are located in Australia and Paris and it approves the exhibitions that are approved and registered but there have been great expos that were held without being sanctioned by the BIE (Rydell 56). However, it is sad that the world fairs are disappearing based on the fact that since the second world war, there has been only four expos which were held in; Belgium (1958), Canada (1967), Japan (1970) and Spain (1992). The world expos were very influential in determining the future of the world and the aim of this paper is to look into the Asians that were displayed in 19th and 20th Century World’s Fairs (Rydell 76).
One of the Asian exhibits that was showcased in the Expo ’70 that was held in Japan was The Japanese Garden which was an exhibit of the Japanese Government. This garden was constructed using the best landscaping techniques in Japan. In comparison to the rest of the Asian countries, Japan has been the most successful and their exhibitions have attracted lots of foreign visitors (Gilbert 95). Exhibits of other countries such as China have experienced hard times in some of the world fairs as a result of visitors measuring the country’s accomplishments with that of Japan.
The finely-curated exhibits of work from Japan lays emphasis on painting and sculpture and a good example of a work that has been featured in numerous expos is the Yoga or the European-style Japanese Painting (new). These are watercolors, oil painting, ink sketches, pastels, etching, lithography and any other Japanese work that is based on western culture. Tower of the sun which was designed by an artist from Japan, Taro Okamoto, was also displayed in the Japanese Pavilion during the 1970 World Fair (Gilbert 165).
China has been participating in the Word Fairs since they were established in London in the year 1851. Despite the fact that these were not funded by the Qing government, Xu Rongcun a Shanghai businessman and Xi Sheng were the first people to represent China and since then there have been numerous Chinese exhibits on private funding till the St. Louis World Fair held in 1904. This exposition (Louisiana Purchase Exposition) was the first Chinese formal participation and this included a delegation that was led by Prince Pulun (Court Scion). During this exhibition, there were numerous exhibits on the China’s pavilion that included; Chinese restaurant, theater, and a shoping area. There was a Liberal Arts Palace that contained commercial, agricultural, art and industrial exhibits. A very spectacular painting that was shipped alongside the others from Beijing to St. Louis was the Carl’s Portrait (Portrait of the Express Dowager Cixi) (Kleutghen 1).
However, it is important to note that in all the works that China had taken to the exhibition, only one was featured in the Palace of Fine arts which was the official art museum. It is not clear yet why most of the contributions of China were reclassified from the fine to applied arts. The contributions of the rest of the countries got a display in the Palace of Fine Arts and indeed this was a dramatic protocol departure that discriminated China. In the Palace of Liberal Arts where the Chinese pieces were taken, they were muddled together to fit in the limited space that was allocated in the industrial interior space of the building that was hardly decorated. The catalogues that accompanied these pieces were disorganized in a similar manner and lacked enough illustrations thus turning away the visitors from the display. Being compared with the rest of the art pieces, the Chinese pieces appeared “topsy-turvydom” as the visitors would say (Kleutghen 1).
The only Chinese work that was featured in the Palace of Fine arts did not get the treatment it deserved with the Japanese works being enhanced by the environment. This led to a series of complains launched by Katherine Carl, an American artist representing China. She claimed that the painting had been worked on in regard to the traditional Chinese aesthetics and declaring the work as flat was simply unfair. Nevertheless, the complain as looked by other artist lacked any good justification based on the fact that the painting that the painting in focus had been painted by a European artist who trained in America and therefore had less or no experience of portrait convections in China and as a result, the painting did not mean anything to the audience who were not aware of the kind of convections that had been used on the painting (Kleutghen 1).
The art pieces that were sent during the 1904 World’s Fair were meant to create a good name for China and to improve its world stage position. Sad enough, this was not accomplished and instead, the performance was very poor that it made China lose its popularity and appear to the rest of the nations as unsophisticated and undeveloped. It has taken a whole century for China to revive this and prove to the world that they are not what many think they are in terms of innovation and development. This came because of the country hosting the largest World Expo in the world’s history. The Expo 2010 Shanghai was arguably the most innovative in history (Kleutghen 1).
Another country that has been represented in the World Expo in Asia is Korea. Korea became a member of the BIE in the year 1987 but their first participation in the world expo was in the year 1893 in Chicago. Korea had a pavilion was part of the celebration of the four hundredth anniversary of the American discovery by Christopher Columbus. Korea also participated in the 1900 World Expo but it was out of the subsequent expos as a result of the Korean war as well as the colonization by Japan. They only returned in the 1962 World Expo in Seattle but the only one their participation was recognized by the BIE in 1993 and this became a milestone in the Korean EXPOs history. Some of the themes that have been featured by Korean Pavilion in the different Expos include; “Bell of peace, A new horizon for Korea, Ties through Korea, Partner of Discovery, wisdom to enjoy prosperity together” (Rydell 44) and so much more. The very recent one in 2008 was ‘Dialogue with water’.
The word Expo have assisted the global community in sharing of technology and knowledge that has played a major role in creation of new civilizations. The new products as well as technologies that have been established as a result of the world expo has played a major role in improving the world economy. Based on the above analysis in this paper, it is clear that Asia has played a major role based on the fact that a good number of countries have participated in the World Expo (Rydell 134).