Atomium (Exposition Universelle et Internationale de Bruxelles, Brussels, 1958)

The Future of Yesterday is a photographic series about the architectural remnants of world exhibitions, often revealing an ironic contrast between the grand utopian views of times past and the urban reality of today Ives Maes Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art Kansas City

Lambda print on acrylic, oak frame

107.3 x 132.3 x 4.6 cm

Edition of 1 + 1 AP


Collection of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, USA


Belgian artist Ives Maes explores the architecture of world’s fair sites as they look today—often decades after the events. His work provides an alternative view to the utopian vision presented at these popular global exhibitions. He reveals that over time, these architectural marvels and spaces have been repurposed, abandoned or moved from their original contexts. With his large photographic sculptures, Maes creates bold compositions, saturated with color, that shape the soaring spaces of the Bloch Lobby, much as the pavilions shaped the visitor’s experience at world’s fairs. Maes invites the viewer to explore the optimistic hopes of the fairs and the reality of the present. The Future of Yesterday is Maes’ first solo exhibition in the United States and was specially created for The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Maes’ exhibition includes images of the world’s fairs from the first one held in London in 1851to the most recent held in Shanghai in 2010. In Crystal Palace (The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations, 1851) Maes shows the scale and presence of this groundbreaking structure by its absence. His photographs of the grave markers of Pygmies who died during the 1897 Exposition Coloniale in Brussels ask the viewer to think about colonialism, international trade and the exhibiting of peoples at world’s fairs. The internationally renowned German Pavilion, designed by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, in Barcelona Pavilion (Exposition International de Barcelona, 1929) becomes mysterious in a ghostly and abstracted image. Two photographs from the Shanghai Expo 2010 capture the very popular fair, which attracted 73 million people. UK Pavilion Interior (Expo 2010 Shanghai), a detail of Thomas Heatherwick’s Seed Cathedral, represents only an abbreviated detail of pavilion architecture. The high vantage point that Maes uses for Parade (Shanghai Expo 2010: Better City, Better Life), however, depicts the formality and vastness of the exhibitions and denies any sensation of vitality or emotion. Well-known in Europe, with both solo and group shows, Maes is noted for creating installations that provoke viewers to make new connections with ordinary objects. His penetrating gaze, sharp focus and cropped images allow the viewer to contemplate both the past and the future. What were these events? Who attended them? What was their purpose? What are they now? Visitors to The Future of Yesterday: Photographs of Architectural Remains at World's Fairs will encounter an installation that draws attention to the Bloch Building’s minimalist aesthetic. At the same time, the vibrancy and detail of Maes’ images provoke closer looking to discern the greater and deeper story. With Maes’ compelling photographs, world’s fairs take on a new relevance.

Excerpt from the text ‘The Future of Yesterday: Photographs of Architectural Remains at World's Fairs’ by Catherine L. Futter


In THE FUTURE OF YESTERDAY the Belgian artist Ives Maes searched the globe looking for evidence of World’s Fairs. He photographed the architectural remnants of these short-lived events and the sites on which they were built, often revealing an ironic contrast between the grand utopian views of times past and the urban reality of today. His eerie photographs are afterimages, lingering vestiges of now fading dreams.


The Future of Yesterday

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, USA

29/06/2012 – 28/10/2012

Curated by Catherine L. Futter

Solo exhibition