Poster for Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne (Paris, 1937)

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"The most striking feature of the 1937 exposition in Paris was the placement of the Russian building face to face with the Nazi pavilion. Nothing in any previous universal exhibition had ever matched this dramatic architectural confrontation. In the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, the two opponents faced off with self-aggrandizing monuments to their nationalistic spirits. According to his own account, Albert Speer, Hitler's architect in chief and designer of the German building, accidentally stumbled into a room containing a sketch of the Russian Pavilion. This ostensibly innocent accident enabled Germany to dominate its rival on the Esplanade. Facing the heroically posed Russian workingman and peasant woman brandishing hammer and sickle, the German eagle, its talons clutching a wreath encircling a huge swastika, disdainfully turned its head and fanned out its wings. At the ground level, a massively naked Teutonic trio stare at the Russian monument with grim determination."


The allure of this exposition poster, then, was not to advertise or celebrate the triumphs of Progress — which had been the theme of every international exposition since 1851— but to invite fairgoers to witness an architectural face-off between two nations that would soon be at war with each other.

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