This machine printed wallpaper features a repeating pattern of orange hands and pink feathers floating down a light blue background like snowflakes – or does it feature flower buds and tiny balloons? Or, wait, maybe it’s actually a portrait of microbes having a party. The only woman who knows the true inspiration behind this funky paper is artist Nathalie du Pasquier, who designed it ca.1992 for the German design company Gebr. Rasch GmbH & Co.

Du Pasquier was a founding member of Memphis, a Milan-based group of young designers who created bright, bold products in the post-modernist style. The group’s name came about after members heard “Stuck Outside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again” by Bob Dylan playing on the radio. Although a seemingly random choice, the name actually holds great significance. The members of Memphis felt it was important to do away with traditional design hierarchies, and their work is celebrated for combining motifs of high and low culture in one piece. The two cities of Memphis – one the 20th century birthplace of rock n’ roll, the other an ancient capital of Egyptian pharaohs –appropriately encapsulated this unique mish-mash of design. Although this paper post-dates Memphis by several years, it represents the core values of the group quite nicely. The repeating, floral-ish pattern recalls décor that is formal and traditional, but the strange fleshy objects ensure that this wallpaper is anything but.

Ms. Du Pasquier now focuses mainly on paintings, and is also currently lending her signature style to American Apparel.

Anna Rasche is a student in the History of Decorative Arts & Design graduate Program at the Cooper Hewitt, and is a Master’s Fellow in the Wallcoverings Department

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