Launched in 1900, the Exposition Universelle was the grandest international showcase of design, art, and technology to date. Punctuating the highpoint of the French Belle Époque (1871–1914), it projected an image of Paris as the cultural capital of the world. Its epicenter was the Palais de L’Electricité, an opulent Art Nouveau–style power station that supplied the energy for the entire exposition compound. Besides earning Paris the epithet La Ville Lumière (City of Light), electrical illumination had transformed the city’s nightlife. The bohemian bars of the Montmartre and Montparnasse neighborhoods were open later, and artists could work in their studios through the night.
René Binet, Monumental Gate of the Exposition Universelle, Paris, 1900. © Léon et Lévy / Roger-Viollet