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The Universal Exhibition of 1937 as seen by contemporaries

lundi 22 mai 2017

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Monday 22 May 2017 saw the closing of applications to host the Universal Exhibition of 2025.  France, whose application was lodged over one year ago, last hosted the event in 1937.  

The exhibition of arts and techniques in modern life opened its doors to the public on 25 May 1937 in Paris. In addition to technical innovations like the electric train or car, this edition was marked by a confrontation of communist, fascist and pacifist ideologies on the eve of the Second World War. This can be seen in the photographs of the Third Reich and USSR pavilions, which faced each other across the place de Varsovie.

It was also for this exhibition that Picasso painted one of his most celebrated works, Guernica, which is held at the Reina Sofia museum in Madrid. Created for a commission from the representatives of the Spanish Republic, this work initially received a mixed reception before going on to become a symbol for the horror of war.

Guernica, Pablo Picasso, Espagne, Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia - (C) Succession Picasso - Gestion droits d'auteur ; photo (C) BPK, Berlin, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Alfredo Dagli Orti


Two buildings constructed for the 1937 exhibition are still visible: the Palais de Chaillot and the Palais de Tokyo, which houses the Musée d’Art moderne de la ville de Paris and the famous Fée Electricité by Raoul Dufy.

We offer a glimpse of this event, which was extensively photographed by contemporaries, in the archives that you can find in our image database.

See also the exhibition Pity and Terror. Picasso's Path to Guernica, Museo Reina Sofia until 4 September 2017