Souvenir de l'Exposition de Paris 1937.
UNKNOWN (POSSIBLY A.I. OR A.H.)
A very rare pictorial map of the 1937 Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne, more commonly know as the Paris World Fair of 1937. The Exposition was located at the Place du Trocadéro across from the Eiffel Tower which had been built for the World Fair of 1889. It has been said that the “1937 event was to showcase the best of the world’s contemporary scientific and technological achievement. Pavillons were devoted to the cinema, to radio, light, the railway, flight, refrigeration, and printing.”
As a centrepiece to this Exposition a tower was conceived, as had been the case with the Eiffel Tower the World Fair of 1889. The Phare du Monde was to dwarf the Eiffel Tower, and if it had been built, the concrete structure would have been 700 metres tall with a spiralling road ascending the exterior. The architectural marvel, owing no small way to its hubris, was cancelled. Ironically, the Exposition also encountered many other delays too such an extant that only the monoliths of the Soviet Union and of that of Nazi Germany had been built on time. These pavilions,designed by Boris Iofan and Albert Speers, came to represent competing ideologies for world domination in the 20th Century that would lead to the Second World War just a couple years later.
Furthermore, although the Exposition was to showcase the best in scientific and technological achievement, it was the political undertone of the time that stands out. Of particular interest is the fact that Pablo Picasso used the Exposition to showcase his Guernica, a depiction of the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica by German and Italian forces earlier in the year. Picasso’s Guernica has become one of the greatest depictions of the 20th Century and stands as a stark reminder of the brutality and chaos that war inflicts on people.
As such, this pictorial map with its joyfulness and exuberant colours depicting a city open to the world, masks a set of global tensions that would erupt into open warfare two years later, and which would see German forces occupy Paris a year after. It is also a reminder of the subjectiveness of cartography both by the map maker and by the viewer to render meaning.
(Sources: Art and Architecture Toward Political Political Crises: The 1937 Paris International Exposition in Context. Culturedarm.)