Zoom in / Zoom out, Patterns and materials in wallpaper since the 18th century


Wallpaper enjoys a revival in contemporary interior decoration. The rendering of materials, trompe-l’oeil, and visual games are sometimes impressive. But although the technical achievements are advanced, these illusion effects are not new : they have been recurring in the history of wallpaper ever since its invention. The exhibition presents ancient wallpapers facing present ones, it shows the technical progress but also the similarity of effects. Visitors are invited to use binoculars in order to zoom on wallpaper details. Attracted by a wall covered with embossed leather, skin, velvet or marble, we must get closer to discover that these textures were simulated. Zooming allows to understand how the effect was created.

An other section of the exhibition deals with the conception of wallpaper patterns which must take into account the specific restraints of the medium as well as the evolution of taste. It aims to show the creative process from the choice of the subject to the composition of the pattern’s basic module. Since the eighteenth century, wallpaper designers are conscious that the repetition of patterns is an integral part of the design effect.

Lots of contemporary artists are interested in possibilities offered by pattern repetition and material effects in wallpaper. This exhibition presents a room covered by three “Papiers dominotés” by Charles Kalt (born in 1956). Ten students of the Haute école des arts du Rhin worked on this exhibition theme and their imaginative proposals are ending the tour.

Isabelle Dubois-Brinkmann, kurator, Wallpaper Museum, Rixheim