The Vienna World Exposition 1873
A mixed result: The end and the repercussions of the exposition
Year: || 1873|
|Duration: ||1st may - 31st october 1873
| 1 |
Copyright: Pemsel, Abb. 51
140,000 visitors - the largest number attending any one day of the exposition - flocked to Vienna on 2 November 1873 on the final day of the great exhibition. Heinrich Ritter Fellner von Feldegg was appointed to organise the dismantling of the Exposition Site and to conclude the unsettled negotiations with exhibitors. Whilst all of the smaller pavilions were demolished, pains were taken to preserve the Rotunda, the Machine Hall, and the two Amateur Pavilions. The latter were taken over by the Art Academy, the Machine Hall was used by the Vienna Council as a warehouse, whilst the Rotunda - soon to become a symbol of Vienna and its liberal Gründerzeit and Ringstraßenzeit - continued to be a major cultural venue until it was destroyed by fire in 1937. The gentrified Volksprater was handed back as it was to the park authorities. The Swedish houses and the Japanese village were acquired by Londoners whilst the splendid furnishings in the Kaiser Pavilion - whose demolition was the subject of enormous controversy - were left in the safe keeping of the Museum of Art and Industry in Vienna.
Despite the cultural achievements of the exposition which demonstrated, in the sense of liberalism, the progress made in the new capital city during the Gründerzeit, the exposition project overall was subject to extremely harsh criticism. The World Exposition was made the scapegoat for the economic crisis which led to the collapse of the stock markets. This diminished the political weight of the liberal government leading in the long term to the development of a multiparty system and the division of the population into national groups.
Schwarz-Senborn was accused of improper financial planning and made responsible for the exposition deficit of 14 million Gulden. The very low number of visitors on account of the cholera epidemic (20 million were expected, only 7 million came) only served to make the results even worse. The social problems associated with the sudden increase in unemployment when the exposition ended, and exacerbated by the inflated rents and rise in the price of food, encouraged criticism of the regime which was accused of excess financial investment for the sake of pure luxury and prestige. Moreover, there were serious doubts about the contribution of the World Exposition to industrial and scientific progress despite the many congresses held over the exposition period.
Forgotten were the stimuli to the urban development of Vienna and the enormous prestige gained by Austria overseas - not least through the personal interest and involvement of the Kaiser. Vienna and the Austrian Empire were able to present themselves on the largest exposition area to that date on a site embellished by grandiose monumental architecture. The exposition provided the framework for an extremely diverse "festival uniting the peoples of the world" and established a vital platform for the politics of peace, cultural exchange and export trade relations - e.g. with Japan.