Publication Date

Winter 2010

Document Type



Set against the backdrop of the cold war, the New York World's Fair of 19641965 emphasized capitalism and commercialization while it downplayed art as an element that should be elevated above other exhibits. This emphasis placed art in settings that seemed populist, even vulgar to some critics, in order to attract as many visitors as possible. Adding to this perception that the fair lacked high culture, officials did not sponsor any exhibits showcasing art despite the fact that most earlier fairs had at least one pavilion dedicated to art. The two most distinctive features of the 1964-1965 fair no separate fine arts pavilion and being the first to feature a number of newly independent nations emerging from colonialism provide an opportunity to examine the place of the arts in this new global commercial context. This article examines art displays found in selected official international pavilions to show that fair organizers sought out great works of art not simply to create a culturally edifying fair, but to use art as spectacle to enhance the commercial aspects of the event. The fair served as a venue where both exhibitors and fair officials used art, high and low, to serve multiple ends, among them economic development, religious proselytizing, and cultural prestige.

Publication Title

Journal Of Social History





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Open Access Status

OA Deposit

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