Preview: Walls Are Talking: Wallpaper, Art and Culture

Zineb Sedira, Une Génération de Femmes, 1997. Courtesy: The Whitworth Art Gallery, The University of Manchester

Walls Are Talking – Wallpaper, Art and Culture at The Whitworth Art Gallery, The University of Manchester, February 6 – May 3 2010

Wallpaper is often used as a pejorative term for art or music that asks for little from its audience. But not so the examples in a new show at the Whitworth Art Gallery.

Walls Are Talking demonstrates the potential of paper and paste to speak about more than just interior design. Just a few of the issues tackled include warfare, racism, gender and sexuality.

All of which isn’t surprising given the type of ‘designers’ whose work appears here. Damien Hirst, Sarah Lucas, Michael Craig-Martin and Angus Fairhurst have all used wallpaper to make bold artistic statements.

In fact curators Christine Woods and Gill Saunders have gathered works by more than 30 international artists who share an interest in the unlikely medium.

But many of the designs could still decorate a living room. Zineb Sedira does so even as she comments on gender inequalities in Islamic society, in works from a series called Une Génération des Femmes.

Thomas Demand, meanwhile, has covered an entire gallery in a wallpaper called Ivy. It features photography of intricate cut out paper, which promises to work on both an aesthetic and conceptual level.

With several thousand examples in its main collection, the Whitworth is the perfect backdrop for a show on wallpaper. If it goes on display in an art gallery, it is safe to assume it really is art.

Written for Culture24.

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