Artist's Designed Wallpapers

Release Date: 
Tuesday, July 27, 2004
Press Release: 

Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum Presents “Artists’ Designed Wallpapers”

The Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum will present “Artists’ Designed Wallpapers,” an exhibition featuring wallcoverings designed by leading 20th-century artists. The exhibition of 12 wallcoverings will be on view in the museum’s Great Hall from Aug. 13 through Nov. 14, 2004.

Curated by Gregory Herringshaw, Assistant Curator of Wallcoverings, “Artists’ Designed Wallpapers” presents a selection of works from the museum’s permanent collection, ranging from 1902 through 2000. While many of the featured artists are prominent creators in their respective fine arts fields-—painting, sculpture, photography and printmaking—their wallcovering designs are often considerably less well known.

“The exhibition will examine the interesting similarities found between their artworks and their designs for wallcoverings. The characteristics and dominant themes of many of these artists’ works of fine art are also boldly evident in their wallcoverings designs,” said Herringshaw. “However, designing wallpaper also presents an interesting challenge not faced in an artist’s normal work, namely, how to deal with pattern repetitions.” “Bachelor’s Wallpaper” by Charles Dana Gibson (1867-1944) features overlaid repetitions of his famous “Gibson Girl.” Artist Joan Miró (1893-1983) treats his wallcovering design similar to his canvases, and features his signature vibrant colors and playful, simplified forms.

Among the other artists featured in the exhibition are:
• Edward Bawden (1903-1989): illustrator, calligrapher, graphic artist, printmaker and landscape watercolorist; proficient at linocuts, he carried this technique over into his wallpapers.
• Charles Burchfield (1893-1967): prolific watercolorist noted for his renderings of small-town America and his expressionistic paintings of nature, as featured in the wallpaper design “The Birches.”
• Alexander Calder (1898-1976): sculptor, painter and the inventor of mobiles.
• Trenton Doyle Hancock (b. 1974): best known for his watercolors, drawings, prints and mixed-media pieces.
• Allen Jones (b. 1937): a leading British Pop artist involved with painting, graphic art and sculpture.
• Henri Matisse (1869-1954): Fauvist painter, sculptor, graphic designer and printmaker; he became known for his papiers découpés (paper cut-outs), a technique represented in the mural on display in the exhibition.
• Roberto Matta (1911-2002): Surrealist painter who also explored sculpture, ceramics and tapestry.
• Saul Steinberg (1914-1999): architect, cartoonist and graphic parodist; his wonderful illustrative style and lighthearted humor find their way into his wallpaper designs.
• Andy Warhol (1928-1987): Pop artist who worked in silk-screen printing, painting and filmmaking; “Cow” was used as the background for his artwork at the Whitney Museum in 1971.
• William Wegman (b. 1943): works in many media, including drawing, painting, video and photography; his well-known imagery of weimaraners is captured in the exhibited work “Alphabet.”

“Artists’ Designed Wallpapers” will run concurrently with two exhibitions based on the similar theme of design works by artists, “Design ≠ Art: Functional Objects from the Donald Judd to Rachel Whiteread” and “Josef and Anni Albers: Designs for Living.”

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum is housed in the Andrew Carnegie Mansion at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 91st Street in New York City. Public transit routes include the Lexington Avenue 4, 5 and 6 subways (86th or 96th Street Stations) and Fifth and Madison Avenue buses. The museum is open Tuesdays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Fridays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays, noon to 6 p.m. The museum is closed on Mondays, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. General admission, $10; senior citizens and students over age 12, $7. Cooper-Hewitt members and children under age 12 are admitted free. For further information, please call 212.849.8400 or visit The museum is fully accessible.
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