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From Rodin to Mermaids

Art at the World’s Fair

Even the tickets to the 1984 Louisiana World’s Fair were works of art. Inspired by the Mardi Gras-esque sculpture features found on the Wonderwall and City Gate, the tickets featured one of the most talked about sights of the fair: Topless mermaids.

Image provided courtesy of the New Orleans Public Library.

Art could be found in all corners of the 1984 Louisiana World’s Fair. Foreign country pavilions all featured regional and traditional art in a variety of forms. The Louisiana Folklife Pavilion showcased everything from Mardi Gras Indian costumes to traditional Cajun handicrafts, and performance artists were encountered in every stroll around the fair grounds.

The Vatican Pavilion featured a major show called “Treasures of the Vatican,” containing works of art from the Vatican and other countries spanning 2,000 years of religious art.
Rodin, Caravaggio and Raphael were some of the big draws of the exhibition, which also included religious artifacts, reliquaries and devotional objects. Of particular local interest was the jewel-covered 14-carat-gold 1938 Eucharistic Congress Monstrance crafted by New Orleans jewelers Bernard and Grunning from jewels and gold donated by over 5,000 mostly local devotees. On display for the first time in two decades, after the fair was over it was lent to the New Orleans Museum of Art for continued display.

Another major art component of the fair was “Artworks ’84,” a multi-part visual arts collection housed in the Great Hall featuring the work of many artists, with a strong emphasis on those from Louisiana. There was the traditional gallery display of works in a variety of mediums: oil painting, wood and metal sculpture, photography, papier-mâché and more. There was also a rotating artist-in-residence program presented in a studio atmosphere where visitors could watch artwork being created, engage artists in informal conversation and ask questions.

“Artworks ’84” ended with an exhibition of video art called “So There, Orwell 84.” A screening room showed a continuous running of 24-hours of unduplicated programming featuring avante garde television artists, mostly from New York City. A weekly block showcased Louisiana video artists.

Note: This is Part 4 of a yearlong focus on the 1984 Louisiana World’s Fair.

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