In 2023 Vienna celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Vienna World’s Fair in 1873. The Weltmuseum Wien will join the festivities and focus on the topic a whole year long: from January to December 2023, the museum will offer a guided tour (alternating between German and English) entitled The Vienna World’s Fair 1873 and Art Nouveau everySaturday at 11.15 am.
The Vienna World’s Fair of 1873 was a platform for meetings and exchange. It was the first world exhibition after the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and offered ample opportunities to establish trade relationships.
Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, the Ottoman Empire, and Persia were represented with own pavilions in Vienna. The newly formed ‘oriental quarter’ featured replicas of original buildings and presented local arts and crafts as well as resources. The Shah of Persia, Naser-al-Din, visited Austria on the occasion of the World’s Fair, while western Asian countries were introduced to industrial processes. In Vienna the exhibition sparked a distinct oriental fashion trend: carpets, glasses, and ceramics modelled after oriental examples found their way into Vienna’s households. The newly established Oriental Museum acquired collections presented at the World’s Fair and stayed in touch with contacts to the Middle East. These collections gradually ended up at today’s Weltmuseum Wien and MAK – Museum of Applied Arts Vienna; the museum itself evolved into today’s Vienna University of Economics and Business.
The Vienna World’s Fair also marked a particularly important moment in the history of Japan. After being forced by external pressure to open up, and after an interior restructuring of the country, Japan found itself in turmoil at the time of the World’s Fair. Following the abolition of the old feudal system in the course of the Meiji Restoration, Japan endeavoured to present itself in Europe as a modern state. A commission, to which also foreigners such as the brothers Alexander and Heinrich von Siebold belonged, was formed in Japan. According to the officially published catalogue, this group compiled over 6,000 objects to be presented in Vienna.
As one of the key themes of the exhibition in Vienna was architecture, Japan sent several architecture models to Europe. One of the largest items exhibited in the Japanese pavilion and today the central object in the Japan gallery of the Weltmuseum Wien is the model of a Daimyo residence of the Edo period (1600–1868).
The Vienna World’s Fair was the first and only universal exhibition in the German-speaking region until the Expo 2000 in Hanover, Germany. It ushered in the period of Viennese Modernism.
As part of the 150th anniversary, a two-year research project is underway to create a digital platform that brings together all the objects from the Japanese Pavilion at the Vienna World Exhibition. The digital database will digitally bring together the objects that are now scattered across many different institutions from Vienna to Tokyo and make them available to the public.
The house model of a daimyō residence was exhibited at the Vienna World’s Fair in the Palace of Industry under the category Group 19: “The civic residence with its interior furnishings and decoration: completed buildings, models and drawings of civic residences of civilised peoples; entirely furnished residential rooms.” In addition to the Roman numeral XIX, the Japanese paper label on this house model also attests to the number 19. This was built in 1872 by the model construction workshop Musashiya Kamakichi in the Asakusa District of Tōkyō.
You can see the house model in the Japan gallery of our permanent exhibition.
Around 1860, trade with Japan began to develop. For three centuries Japan had been a country without contacts with other states. In 1873, it presented itself at the Vienna World's Fair. European artists were particularly impressed by the Japanese woodblock prints. The large, monochrome colored areas, the designs without perspective and the floral motifs excited them and eventually led to the emergence of Art Nouveau. The objects from the World's Fair can be found today in the Weltmuseum Vienna, among other places. In this guided tour we will explore together the beginnings of Art Nouveau, which still inspires the public today.
Book a customized guided tour with our art education department.