Photo Pietro Baroni / Expo 2015.
The topics of food security and sustainability may have been the order at hand, but this being Italy—and maybe this, an exhibition, being the global format in which people are exposed to new ideas—art wasn’t quite left out of the Expo experience. In fact, far from it. Major architects spearheaded the construction of freestanding pavilions—from Foster + Partners for the United Arab Emirates, Nendo for Japan, and James Biber’s outfit for the United States—bringing parallels to Venice’s Giardini to mind. And artists were used as a conduit for expression, from
UAE Pavilion. Photo Pietro Baroni / Expo 2015.
Italian Pavilion. Photo Pietro Baroni / Expo 2015.
American Pavilion. Photo Pietro Baroni / Expo 2015.
Japanese Pavilion. Photo Pietro Baroni / Expo 2015.
Zero Pavilion. Photo Pietro Baroni / Expo 2015.
Coffee Cluster with works by Sebastião Salgado, supported by Illy. Photo Pietro Baroni / Expo 2015.
As Hoffmann urges in his book Showtime, exhibitions “are an important social ritual, with vast possibilities. Exhibitions, just like artworks, do not emerge from nowhere. They appear in particular moments, under their own sets of historical conditions.” If exhibitions are a product of our time, and we are in an age of shifting expectations (from what we demand of an exhibition and also how we desire to be entertained), Hoffmann’s counsel certainly feels aligned. However, what sticks out after exploring the pavilions of Expo—laden with promotional agendas and favoring gimmick over content—is that if these are the exhibitions deserving of our time, that’s not necessarily a good thing.