World’s Fairs exhibition set to open at Mint Museum Uptown September 22

Show will feature decorative arts and design innovations from the world’s great cultural capitals

A groundbreaking international exhibition is set to arrive at Mint Museum Uptown this fall. Inventing the Modern World: Decorative Arts at the World’s Fairs, 1851—1939presents outstanding examples of glass, furniture, jewelry, ceramics, precious metalwork, and textiles displayed at the world’s fairs between London’s Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations in London in 1851 and New York’s World’s Fair in 1939.

“The Mint is pleased to offer Charlotte audiences and the region a blockbuster exhibition celebrating art that is beautiful, inspiring, and historically significant,” said Dr. Kathleen V. Jameson, President & CEO of the Mint. “This nationally touring exhibition will be accompanied by one of the most exciting slates of in-depth and innovative programming we’ve ever hosted.”

Inventing the Modern World comprises approximately 200 objects shown during the major world’s fairs from 1851 to 1939 – a journey through the major cultural capitals of the world. Large and small in scale, these seminal objects are culled from private and public collections, primarily in America and Europe. Many of these objects have never before left their respective institutions or countries. Among the many lenders are The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Designmuseum Danmark, and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. The exhibition was co-organized by the Carnegie Museum of Art and The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and traveled to the New Orleans Museum of Art before making its final stop at the Mint, where it will be on view from September 22 through January 19, 2014.

“We wanted to bring this exhibition to Charlotte because it truly does present the best examples of decorative arts from the second half of the 19th century through the first half of the 20th,” says Brian Gallagher, Curator of Decorative Arts at the Mint. “The exhibition also complements two of our museum’s greatest strengths: historical decorative arts and contemporary craft and design, and so we knew that our members and supporters would especially enjoy it.”

World’s fairs were important places for debuting advancements in modern living. “In the decades before television commercials, much less the Internet, these fairs were one of the primary vehicles through which people could learn about other cultures and other countries,” says Gallagher. “They were a place for people to see the latest works of art and design created in other countries as well as their own.”

Some fairs were broad in scope, displaying decorative arts alongside paintings, sculpture, industrial design and agricultural products; others concentrated on exhibiting decorative arts alone. Both types of expositions functioned as showcases and marketplaces for design. Above all, they democratized design, exposing countless visitors and others to the latest artistic and technological achievements of their time.

Exhibition highlights include an extraordinary Fabergé tiara fashioned from thousands of tiny rose-cut diamonds set on knife-edge mounts, which gives the tiara the appearance of woven lace. Acclaimed firms such as Tiffany & Co., Lalique, Cartier, and Boucheron are also represented at the exhibition through superlative examples of their works.

Inventing the Modern World is the grandest exhibition ever hosted by the Mint; it is the largest exhibition since the opening of Mint Museum Uptown, and the first to take up both the third and fourth special exhibition levels. It is also the Mint’s first ticketed exhibition in over a decade. Exhibition admission is $10 for adult visitors on top of regular museum admission. Exhibition admission is free for Mint members and children under 18 when they accompany a paying adult. (Exhibition tickets are available at

The Mint will offer a lineup of can’t-miss special events during the opening weekend of Inventing the Modern World, and Charlotteans will have the opportunity to ride a Ferris wheel beside Mint Museum Uptown throughout the weekend. Guests can preview the exhibition with an exclusive cocktail reception at the Preview Celebration on Saturday, September 21 at 6:30 p.m. (Tickets are available for $200 for non-members, $100 for members, and $50 for Corporate Leadership Circle and Crown Society patrons; call 704.337.2011 to register.) Mint Museum Uptown will open early and offer special members-only hours on Sunday, September 22 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Coffee and light brunch fare will be offered. A private tour led by Brian Gallagher will also be offered on Sunday from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Space is limited and reserved for the Mint’s Benefactor and Sustainer members. Sunday Fun Day will also be held from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and will include family-friendly crafts and activities celebrating the exhibition (FREE for children and Mint members, $5 general admission /$15 general + special exhibition admission for adults). On Sunday, guests can also attend a special lecture by Inventing the Modern World co-curators Jason T. Busch, Chief Curator and the Alan G. and Jane A. Lehman Curator of Decorative Arts and Design at the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, and Catherine L. Futter, Helen Jane and R. Hugh “Pat” Uhlmann Senior Curator of Architecture, Design, and Decorative Arts at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. The lecture is at 2 p.m. and is FREE for members and non-members after museum admission. For more information on these and other events or to register for programs, visit or call 704.337.2011.

Other programming during the exhibition’s run include a lecture on “Tiffany at the World’s Fairs” by the archivist at Tiffany & Co., New York, Annamarie V. Sandecki, scheduled for November 10, and a panel discussion by contemporary experts on concepts that may change our lives in the future, “What’s Next? Inventions that will change Contemporary Living,” scheduled for December 4 and sponsored by UTC Aerospace Systems. A full listing is available at

Major support for this exhibition was provided by Wells Fargo, the Windgate Charitable Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. The exhibition is brought to Charlotte through generous support from Duke Energy, Novant Health, Rodgers Builders, and the Southern Christmas Show. In-kind support was generously provided by Adams Outdoor Advertising.

A fully-illustrated catalogue is available in the Mint Museum Shops in hardcover ($75 for non-members, $67.50 for members) and paperback ($45 for non-members, $40.50 for members).

NOTE TO MEDIA: Members of the media are invited to preview the exhibition at 10 a.m. on Thursday, September 19 at Mint Museum Uptown. Interviews with Curator Brian Gallagher and other museum officials will be available. RSVP to