100 years have gone by since the first Barcelona Trade Fair

This October marks the 100th anniversary of the first Barcelona Trade Fair, an event created to promote industry and trade that became the closest precedent of fairs, as we know them today. Together with the universal expositions of 1888 and 1929, it forms part of the history of Fira de Barcelona and the city’s trade fair tradition. The 1920 Trade Fair was the first major international exhibition event after the First World War and it placed Barcelona on the map of Europe.

Held at the Palau de Belles Arts, next to the Parc de la Ciutadella, and the Saló de Sant Joan (now the Passeig de Lluís Companys), the Barcelona Trade Fair was inaugurated on 23 October 1920 and it opened its gates to the public from 24 October to 10 November. It attracted 250,000 visitors and 1,243 exhibitors, 10% of them international ones from Italy, France, Sweden, England, Austria, Holland, Belgium, the USA, Argentina, Switzerland and the Czech Republic, attended it.

We highlight some of the most significant data below (Source: Fira de Barcelona General Archive):

  • The poster was the work of Valencian artist Pasqual Capuz, regarded as one of the best poster designers of the mid-20th century.
  • 15 million pesetas (90,361 euros) were generated from economic transactions, illustrating the commercial dynamism of the fair.
  • Advertising was an essential tool for its promotion, given that more than 40,000 posters, leaflets and adverts were distributed around the world
  • The admission price was one peseta.
  • The stands were presented as exhibition areas, thus launching a new era in the trade fair landscape. Adrià Gual, the prestigious playwright and stage designer, decorated many of them. The customer designed five standard models for personalisation.
  • The First Trade Fair constituted a revolution in its sector from a conceptual and organisational point of view, as the services for exhibitors and visitors were centralised, the exhibition areas were standardised and the cooperation of the administrations and citizens was sought to contribute to the success of the project.
  • It was an international showcase for the innovations of the time linked to the modern economy and consumption, such as cars, medicines, fashion and beauty products, typewriters and calculators, wines, including sparkling ones, kitchen and bathroom equipment, mechanical toys, photographic and cinematographic material, etc. We should mention the presentation of an electric typewriter, an exhibit that generated the admiration of the visitors.
  • The Fashion Show was held within the framework of the First Barcelona Trade Fair, an event regarded as the first in its sector in Spain and one of the first in Europe. The first fashion parade in Spain was held there.
  • Special services were organised to accommodate the foreign visitors and tourist guides of the city were printed.
  • The international press emphasised the city’s cosmopolitan nature and its ability to organise large events.
  • Conferences and cultural events were organised in the city throughout the fair. The composer Pau Casals performed with his orchestra (also created in 1920) at the Palau de la Música on the occasion of the event.
  • In its fifth year (1924), the Trade Fair was moved to the facilities and grounds at Montjuïc that would host the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition.

Barcelona, October 2020