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Looking Back:
The Wonder of the 1984 World's Fair
Photography by Joshua Mann Pailet

The Ogden Museum of Southern Art is pleased to present Looking Back: The Wonder of the 1984 World's Fair, featuring photographs by Joshua Mann Pailet.

This exhibition is the first in a series of events and exhibitions that the Museum will host, as it serves as host institution for a re-evaluation of the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition (LWE) entitled "1984 - 2004: Looking Back / Looking Forward." Beginning May 12, 2004, the series of events coincides with the 20th anniversary of the six-month event that transformed the architectural landscape of the city's riverfront and Warehouse District and brought seven-day-a-week activities to downtown New Orleans.

About the Photography Exhibition

The re-evaluation will begin with Looking Back: The Wonder of the 1984 World's Fair, an exhibition of photographs Pailet documenting the Fair prior to construction in 1980 through its demolition in 1985. On display in the Museum's Contemporary Photography Gallery.

Museum officials plan to present Pailet's photographs in two phases, as his collection numbers in the thousands. Beginning with the area's transformation of a forgotten warehouse district, the visual tour follows the layout of the Fair, beginning with the two main entrances - the City Gate, featuring the popular mermaid sculptures, and the Bridge Gate, with its colorful alligator and Carnival heads. The exhibition includes photographs documenting the entire site, from Centennial Plaza and the Great Hall to the Watergarden, Aquacade, Kid Wash, Italian Village and international pavilions that lines the riverfront. They capture highlights from the amphitheatre's headliners and the energy of Fulton Street.

Pailet, currently the Owner/Director of A Gallery for Fine Photography in New Orleans, was the "official photographer" for the Fair's U.S. Pavilion. He describes the 1984 Louisiana World's Fair as his hobby in those days. "The Fair was a creative opportunity for me because it allowed me to combine many of my interests as a fine art photographer - color, design, architecture, construction, and the people - in what resulted in a five year odyssey." Pailet's photographs give the viewer a lasting view of the beauty of the Fair, as well as an awareness of the changes it brought to the city.

"I knew at the time it was going to be phenomenally good for New Orleans, underneath all the static. And it has been. It mobilized creative people, including artists, architects, designers, construction workers, electricians, and many others - it mobilized this city like I have never seen before or have since. And this city made it happen."

About "1984-2004: Looking Back / Looking Forward"

The LWE was commonly known as the "New Orleans World's Fair," or simply "the Fair," and was opened on the 150 acre site along the Mississippi River from May 12 - November 11, 1984.

Working in partnership with a team of former World's Fair executives and consultants led by Kathy Gates (LWE's Director of Marketing Operations), Karin Giger (LWE's Director of Entertainment), Mark Romig (LWE's Director of Protocol and Guest Relations) and Allen Eskew (Principal Architect), the Ogden Museum will present a series of special art exhibitions beginning with the Fair experience in photograph. An academic portion will include symposia focusing on the Fair's architecture and design, and the economic, political, social and cultural impacts of the Fair experience. The re-evaluation will culminate with celebration of the visual artists featured at the Fair, many of whom are now in the Museum's Collection.

"In keeping with the Museum's mission to celebrate the visual arts and culture of the South, we are excited by the prospects of presenting a series of events commemorating what the Louisiana World's Fair meant to this city and the larger South," says J. Richard Gruber, Director of the Ogden Museum. Following the opening of the Contemporary Arts Center in 1976, the Fair further rekindled interest in the area, and in its aftermath, the Warehouse District has evolved into a burgeoning residential and business area.

"We expect that of the more than 90,000 season passes sold, particularly to metropolitan New Orleans area residents who frequented the Fair on a regular basis, many became keepsakes," says Gruber. "We believe this will give people an opportunity to look back and recall the great experiences and fond memories they had, reliving them through the events held at the Museum, beginning with Pailet's photographs."

Ongoing events and exhibitions also include a recreation of the Wonderwall, reunions of groups such as the Fair's Musical Ambassadors and performers from the Aquacade, and opportunities for people to share their memories of the Fair experience. Details of these and other events will be announced in coming weeks and months.

"Looking Back/Looking Forward" will culminate in an exhibition in the Fall celebrating the artists who were featured in the "Artworks '84 Pavilion," a juried show that highlighted the 84 most prominent artists in Louisiana at that time. Among the featured artists were Debbie Fleming Caffery, Clyde Connell, George Dunbar, George Dureau, Lin Emery, Robert Gordy, Richard Johnson, Ida Kohlmeyer, Gene Koss, Elemore Morgan Jr., John Scott, Arthur Silverman, Robert Tannen, Robert Warrens and Clifton Webb, all now featured in the Ogden Museum Collection.

"In many cases, the Fair gave rise to Louisiana artists, providing them with a worldwide stage on which to showcase their work," says David Houston, Chief Curator of the Ogden Museum. "What we plan to do is show the changes in the artists and the art community alongside those of the Warehouse District. In showing both, you can see how the interest in Southern art and artists parallels the growth in institutions that support the artists such as museums, galleries and new publications."

With the Contemporary Arts Center arriving on the Warehouse District scene in 1976, at the time of the Fair in 1983-1984 a growing national interest in Southern art and culture became increasingly evident in New York, Washington and other national art centers. Ten years after the Fair, in 1994, plans for the opening of the Ogden Museum in the Warehouse District were announced. Today the area is also home to the Louisiana Children's Museum, the National D-Day Museum, and many prominent art galleries, with Louisiana ArtWorks set to open in late 2004.

"Looking Back / Looking Forward: A 20TH Anniversary Re-Evaluation of the Art and Culture of the 1984 Louisiana World's Exposition" is made possible through the generous support of Bank One, N.A.