The world opened a new window in 1844, when the public entered “French Industrial Exposition” in Paris. Quickly afterwards, various large public exhibitions were held in different parts of Europe. In 1851, the first-considered International Exposition was held in London called “Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations”. A new platform was born, where art, science and technology from different countries were brought together.
In the process of the development of the platform, the pavilions became a tool to improve the image of each country from 1988. A study called “Expo 2000 Hanover in Numbers” by Tjaco Walvis showed that 73% of the countries at Expo 2000 were primarily interested in improving their national image. The world fairs had evolved into big vehicles for national branding.
“In the desert of life the wise person travels by caravan, while the fool prefers to travel alone”, (African proverb)
As the importance of the pavilions’ look grew, the budget grew with it.
At Expo 2000 Hanover, the average investment pr. pavilion was €12 million: A budget that made governments doubt their participation since the benefits were often assumed to outweigh the costs.
In a world today, where branding is a key asset: Is it possible for the artwork to stay as strong and sensuous to the audience? Does the creation of a salable layer (that has to be considered and assessed) leave the message behind? When a world fair tries to destroy the line between exhibition and exposition, is it possible to make both’ part equal?
Creating a community inside of the world fairs figurative walls is interesting. But at the same time, I’m constantly aware of the galleries’ need to sell. Does art lose its artistic value if it has to be salable? And does the price affect the experience of art?
CHART ART FAIR had its debut in Copenhagen 3 years ago. A Danish offer of how a world fair could look like. The CHART director Simon Friese wants to establish an international art platform for the Nordic region: “The ambition to do CHART in the first place was actually to make a platform that had the curatorial level to be able to attract an international audience coming here (…)”
But in the crowd, I feel like the gallery presentations convey get lost. The event has been located the same place all three years: Kunsthal Charlottenborg. In the 17th century surroundings, the location won’t disappoint you, but in the big spaces I feel an enormous distance between the art pieces and me as a viewer.
Before you are invited indoor, you can see advertising on display in different shops around town. Large video installations were put in shops as a warm-up before the fair this August. But every shop they have chosen had a specific status and price range. The locations were obviously chosen to attract an audience with a high income: because the buying of a ticket is only a small part of the money that’s exchanged inside the fair’s walls. If you’re interested in ownership, you can take the matter up with the gallery owner you can find next to every stand. Gallery owners you also can meet in the lounge section solely for specific members of the art world. (Some transported in limousines).
But why do I care? Do I want to play a role in the social club of the arts? Even though CHART is a new-born, the number of viewers has increased with 50% the past two year. Apparently, there are a lot of people, on national and international ground, who are interested in a Nordic art platform. Simon Friese and Denmark’s most famous gallery owners are those men who rule the roost, since they decide the selection of the approx. 28 galleries which are participating.
World’s Fairs are great scenarios to enlighten upcoming art and new ideas. The first telephone by Alexander Graham Bell was shown at Centennial Exposition in 1876. And the infrared touch panels were finally presented to the public at the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee, after 40 years of research. A lot of people, including myself, imagine the World’s Fairs to be like in the 1950′s, but the medium has changed.
In the old days, the rich would cross the sea to see the wonders firsthand, but the internet put an end to that. “I don’t know today how a World’s Fair can be viable, because everybody has a camera in their pocket,” says Louise Weinberg, World’s Fair Archive Manager at the Queens Museum. With everybody having art from each corner of the world in their pocket, you don’t need to go to foreign countries. With the internet, the outcome of World’s Fairs has been a massive slump.
Is CHART trying to transform art into a trade again? At Kunsthal Charlottenborg, the artwork or art “actions” seem like entertainment you can quickly pass without being further included. Is that the intention of the yearly event? And then I cannot not think about; are artists meant to serve the rich?