Dr. Elin Lake-Ewald
Ph.D., ASA, FRICS
I recently wrote about the Old Masters that mattered at the famous World’s Fair of 1939. Now it’s time for the Contemporaries, that is, the contemporary artworks of 1939.
In a survey of the collection of living artists whose work was represented at this international exposition, I realized that there were far more names I didn’t recognize than I did. In order to represent the work of an entire nation, regional committees were appointed throughout the country and specific numbers allotted for the number of works that could be accepted. Then a committee of nine was appointed to represent the conservative, middle ground and radical groups, In the end about 25,000 works of art were viewed by the various juries and 1,200 finally selected for exhibition. Let’s see who made the cut.
I suppose that Francis Criss, New York, whose name I know well, and who was resented by “Fascism” was among the radicals, while Michele A. Carfarelli, from New York, showing “Winter, Teaneck,” was among the conservatives. The rest became a guessing game because it is difficult to view art of its time through the eyes of 78 years later. I know what became of artists at the fair like Jack Levine and Joe Jones, Hayley Lever and Max Weber, but what of Jack Wiboltt of California, Ethel Spears of Illinois, Gordon Peers of Rhode Island, Charlotte Millis of Minnesota and Richard Correll of Washington?
Think of the tedious process that it took for the artist to finally achieve a spot in the galleries of the 1939 World’s Fair. Those artists probably thought this exposure would make their careers. Perhaps for some it did, but it made me think that the market eventually sorts out who will be recognized and who will remain in Minnesota or Illinois.