Three original World's Fair paintings initially believed to be missing or destroyed were discovered in a park district storage facility, the Chicago Park District announced Wednesday.
The three, two-sided sliding door panels are attributed to Japanese artist Hashimoto Gaho (1835-1908). The paintings were originally thought to have been displayed during the 1933 World’s Fair, but park district historian Julia Bachrach recently discovered documentation indicating the paintings actually date to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. The three panels would have originally been displayed in the fair's Phoenix Pavilion on the Wooded Isle at the center of the 1893 exposition.
“The rediscovered paintings remind us of the lush history that lives in Chicago’s parks,” Chicago Park District CEO Michael Kelly said in a statement Wednesday.
Following the discovery, both an Art Institute curator of Japanese art and an Asian art conservator evaluated the paintings and and determined all three to be originals from the World’s Fair. Historic photos also closely match the three paintings.
The Park District will work in partnership with the Art Institute of Chicago to conserve the paintings, which are in moderately stable condition, though it has yet to be determined how they will be displayed once conservation efforts are complete.
The city of Chicago has simultaneously been working to restore Jackson Park, investing an estimated $29 million to return the park to the original vision of Frederick Law Olmsted, landscape architect for the 1893 World's Fair.
That money will go toward habitat restoration, landscape improvements, and tree plantings, according to the park district. Additionally, earlier this summer Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined Yoko Ono and the Consul General of Japan at Chicago to announce a permanent piece of public art by Ono, which will be installed in the Garden of the Phoenix in Jackson Park.
“At a time when we are working to honor Jackson Park’s historic past by revitalizing the park to restore Frederick Law Olmsted’s vision, it is a thrilling development to have found original artwork from the 1893 Exposition,” Emanuel said in a statement Wednesday.