In conjunction with the exhibition International Pop we’re presenting a regular feature that will highlight events in Pop art history. Look forward to curated posts featuring archival images, exhibition installation views, excerpts from catalogs, artist ephemera, and behind-the-scenes stories.
With a theme of “Peace through Understanding,” the third world’s fair to be held in New York opened fifty-one years ago this week. The fair would run two six-month seasons between 1964 and 1965, and celebrated achievements in culture and technology, presenting a particularly optimistic view of the future. Mid-century modern architecture dominated the grounds, while international pavilions represented nations ranging from Vatican City to Thailand. American industry took center stage, with Ford and General Motors each claiming their own buildings and Disney contributing to multiple entertainment areas.
Although the grounds featured a fine arts building and several dedicated exhibitions of contemporary and modern art, popular consensus was that the most successful artistic interventions at the 64/65 fair were incorporated into the architecture and displays of other buildings. The Spanish pavilion was lauded for featuring works by Goya, Picasso, and Miró, while the Better Living Center received strong reviews for its inclusion of works by Sargent, de Kooning, and Pollock. Contemporary American art was most notably represented in the Phillip Johnson–designed New York State building. The architect commissioned murals for the building’s facade by several Pop artists, among them Robert Indiana, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, and James Rosenquist. Controversy ensued just two weeks before the fair when Warhol’s mural, Thirteen Most Wanted Men, was mounted and revealed to feature 22 mugshots of fugitives screen-printed onto masonite. Under pressure from government officials including Governor Nelson Rockefeller, Johnson requested that Warhol revise the mural or remove it from the building. The artist responded by suggesting that he replace the mugshots with portraits of Robert Moses, the head of the World’s Fair Corporation. Johnson refuted the idea, and Warhol’s work was quickly painted over with aluminum house paint. Although the original work was never exhibited as a public mural, Warhol reused the silkscreens for a series of prints that same year. More than five decades later Thirteen Most Wanted Men and the ensuing scandal continue to prompt discourse around Warhol’s position within mainstream popular culture.
- Following the fair’s conclusion in 1965, two of the murals from Phillip Johnson’s New York State pavilion moved to Minnesota. The works, by Roy Lichtenstein and James Rosenquist, were donated to the Weisman Art Museum in 1966.
- In April of 1960 French critic Pierre Restany introduced the Nouveaux Réalistes—a group he founded and named—through his manifesto “The Nouveaux Réalistes’ Declaration of Intention.”