0311 Folkloristic Cosmopolitanism: Mexico’s Indigenist Architectures at World’s Fairs and International Exhibitions

  • Miriam Oesterreich (Author)
    Universität der Künste, Berlin

    Miriam Oesterreich, PhD, is Professor of Design Theory and Gender Studies at the University of the Arts, Berlin. An art historian (BA from the University of Heidelberg, MA from the Freie Universität Berlin), she is currently researching the transcultural entanglements of Mexican Indigenism. She received her PhD from Freie Universität Berlin with an investigation of early exoticist advertising images in the German Empire, 1880–1914, which was published as a book in the Fink/Brill series Schriften zur Kunst. She has published in journals such as RIHA Journal, Artelogie, and Design & Culture. She worked as a research associate at the Universities of Heidelberg and Darmstadt, where she deepened her interest in Latin American arts, art and migration, and conceptions of the body in art. In 2019, she was an Ansel Adams Fellow at the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona. She is an associate researcher of the international project "Worlding Public Cultures – The Arts and Social Innovation" at the University of Heidelberg and the Heidelberg Center for Ibero-American Studies. She is co-editor of the digital, peer-reviewed and Open Access journal MIRADAS – Journal for the Arts and Visual Culture of the Américas and the Iberian Peninsula.

Identifiers (Article)


In 1929, Mexico presented itself at the Ibero-American Exposition in Seville, Spain, with a pavilion architecture that replicated the aesthetics of 'Mexican antiquity', referring back to ancient Mexican construction types. Starting from this staging, this article examines the indigenist exhibition architectures in terms of the strategies used to represent the indigenous in the context of establishing a national canon of aesthetic forms. The example of Mexico enables a discussion on how 'peripheral modernism' was imagined at international exhibitions and world’s fairs, how it – in turn – was linked to exoticisation and auto-exoticisation, and which forms of staging were used, especially since no similarly large exhibitions took place in Mexico itself. In broad terms, the pivotal question is to what extent the world’s fair format provided a unique stage for negotiations between the poles of nationalism and cosmopolitanism, tradition and modernity, periphery and center. A special focus will be on the question in which architectural and artistic configurations these negotiation processes became visible. This entails retracing and reappraising the contexts of such indigenist aesthetics.


Mexican indigenism, Pan-Americanism, exoticism, modernism, world's fair, Ibero-American exhibition, Aztec Palace