The official showcase of the nations
As the official image of the Universal Exhibitions was related to aspects that were designed to legitimise the choices of the organisers (economic relations, educational missions and demonstrations of power), it is not surprising that the preferred locations to host these events were capital cities. From the first exhibition held in London in 1851, the extraordinary potential of these initiatives was immediately obvious from the number of visitors the event attracted. Celebrations of significant events were other factors that guided the choice as to which city would host the next exhibition: the opening of the Suez Canal in Cairo (1869), the centenary of the French Revolution in Paris (1889), the centenary of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia (1876) and the discovery of the Americas in Chicago (1893). As relations between Europe and the Arab World intensified during the 19th century, exchanges between the two cultures became ever more complex, not just materially in terms of the arts and architecture, but also in terms of relations between peoples.
Guernsey and Jersey, Malta and Ceylon (from Dickinson's Comprehensive Pictures of the Great Exhibition)

1854 (publication of the book)

The British Library, London, United Kingdom

This painting of the interior of Crystal Palace is by Owen Jones. It shows how the exhibition was on two levels, the upper floor hosting exhibitions about “all nations” separated by huge tapestries. Yellow, blue and red dominated the colour scheme that was used tastefully throughout in accordance with contemporary decorative taste.

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In this Exhibition
About the Exhibition
The official showcase of the nations
Temporary structures and presentation of national contexts
The diffusion of models and promotion of trade
West and East, fine art at International Exhibitions