In celebration of World Pride, June Object of the Day posts highlight LGBTQ+ designers and design in the collection.
I would have to give the honor of the most iconic wallpaper to Andy Warhol for his creation of Cow wallpaper. Cow was first shown at the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York in 1966, which must have caused quite a stir. The exhibition consisted of two galleries: the first was empty save for the installation of Cow wallpaper printed in fuchsia on a bright yellow ground. The second gallery contained large silver helium balloons shaped like bed pillows, aloft at various levels. This must have caused either bewilderment or a smile, depending on the visitor.
Warhol designed a total of five wallpapers over the course of his career. Besides Cow, there was Chairman Mao, The Washington Monument, a self-portrait, and one of fish. Designing wallpaper seems like a logical step for Warhol to pursue, as he frequently displayed his artworks in row or grid formations, which gave the appearance of wallpaper. All of his wallpapers repeated in a similar fashion, as if each repeat was a separate canvas, omitting any secondary elements that would smooth the transition from one repeat to the next.
While Warhol is probably the most renowned artist to design wallpaper, there have been many others before and after. Charles Dana Gibson, creator of the world-famous Gibson Girl, designed a wallpaper featuring the iconic women in 1902. Other renowned artists include Charles Burchfield, Alexander Calder, Salvador Dalí, Niki de Saint Phalle, and Allen Jones to name a few. On the more contemporary scene are Damien Hirst, Urs Fischer, Kiki Smith, and Ai Weiwei. Whether designed to add beauty or express a viewpoint, artist-designed wallpapers tend to be unconventional and reflect the unique perspective of the artist.
Greg Herringshaw is the Assistant Curator of the Wallcoverings Department