World's Fair

A World's Fair (commonly called World Expositions, or simply Expos) is large international festival of arts and sciences. Participating countries present artistic and educational displays in national pavilions to showcase world issues or their country's culture and history. Such is the scale of these events that they are sanctioned by the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) in order to control expense and to avoid any clashes with other expositions and large international events, such as the Olympics.



The origins of world's fairs lay in a French tradition of national exhibitions, and the success of the French Industrial Exposition in 1844 lead to the adoption of such events by neighbouring European countries. The idea made its way to the United Kingdom, which held the "Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations", better known as simply "The Great Exhibition", in 1851. This event set down the precedent in terms of scale and content, which expanded beyond a single topic and included exhibits on wider aspects of society, including art-and-design education, international trade and relations, and tourism. This format was later copied by several other cities in the 19th and early 20th centuries, such as Paris, who held numerous world's fairs.

The rising popularity of the world's fair concept brought conflicts of schedule and interest. In 1928, a convention to schedule regular World's Fairs was created, and the BIE was created to coordinate World's Fair organization. Soon after, the themes that typified world's fairs began to change. An international exhibition in New York in 1939-40 began a shift from the unveiling and showcasing of new technologies and practices to exhibits relating to human and cultural experiences. This paradigm continued after the Second World War, and term 'Expo' for world's fairs was coined in 1967 at Montréal's International and Universal Exposition, or Expo 1967.

Eventually, the idea that world's fairs were a great vehicle to advertise countries became prominent, and the pavilions began to carry greater cultural and historical references to the countries that displayed them. Today, world's fairs contain not only nation branding, but throwbacks to the old paradigms of world's fairs, showcasing both new and innovative technologies and reflections on the prevailing human condition and experience.


There are three types of world's fair as set out by the BIE:

Additionally, the BIE also recognizes the Milan Triennial Exhibition of Decorative Arts and Modern Architecture (also Triennale di Milano, Milan Triennale, or Triennale di Milano International Exhibition) for historical reasons, provided that it retains its original features. The Triennale showcases modern decorative and industrial arts. The most recent Triennale was in 1996. After a 20 year absence, the Triennale wil resume in 2016.


Upcoming events

Name Type Location Dates Theme
Expo Milan 2015 Universal Exposition Milan, Italy 1 May - 31 October 2015 Feeding the planet, energy for life
XXI Triennale International Exhibition Milan Triennale Milan, Italy 2 April - 12 September 2016 21st Century. Design after Design
Expo 2016 Horticultural Exposition Antalya, Turkey 23 April - 30 October 2016 A Green Life for Future Generations
Internationale Gartenausstellung 2017 (IGA 2017) Horticultural Exposition Berlin, Germany 7 April - 6 October 2017
Expo Astana 2017 International Exposition Astana, Kazakhstan 10 June - 10 September 2017 Energy of the Future
Expo Beijing 2019 Horticultural Exposition Beijing, China Live green, live better
Expo 2020 Universal Exposition Dubai, United Arab Emirates Connecting Minds, Creating the Future
Floriade 2022 Horticultural Exposition Almere, Netherlands Growing Green Cities

Recent events

Dusk falls over the 2012 International Expo in Yeosu, South Korea
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