Wallpaper elicits strong, almost visceral, emotions for many people, as evidenced by the reported last words of the great 19th-century Irish wit Oscar Wilde: “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go.”
At some point in the 20th century, this struggle with pattern gave way to the neutral walls within which so many people now live and work. However, wallpaper is seeing a resurgence in contemporary interiors and has become part of the design conversation again. Pattern Repeat: Wallpaper Then and Now presents, for the first time, masterly examples of 19th- and early-20th-century wallpaper design from the MFAH collection.
The exhibition includes French scenic paper, rare pieces of Japanese “leather” wallpaper, and English Arts and Crafts designs by William Morris. Pattern Repeat pairs these historic examples with pieces by contemporary designers, such as artist Dan Funderburgh and design studio Timorous Beasties, who are looking to the past and reinterpreting the meaning of pattern in the 21st century using beauty, sly wit, and pointed social commentary.