Putting a John Baldessari or a Rosemarie Trockel on your wall just got a whole lot easier, thanks to a collaboration between London's Serpentine Galleries and the American textile house, Maharam. The Serpentine's latest stab at making art accessible to all is an inspiring collection of wallpapers. Made up of 13 patterns, mainly produced specifically for the project, by seven artists and architects, the inaugural collection brings the long tradition of artists creating wallpapers bang up to date.
Under the fine curatorial eye of Julia Peyton-Jones and Hans Ulrich Obrist, co-directors of the Serpentine Galleries, the Maharam Serpentine Galleries wallpaper collection includes previously unseen work from artists such as John Baldessari, Marc Camille Chaimowicz, Rosemarie Trockel, Lawrence Weiner and Ai Weiwei, as well as architects Toyo Ito and SANAA, as featured in our June 2015 issue (W*195).
'Wallpaper is something many artists and architects have been interested in,' explains Obrist, who visited artists such as Beatriz González in Bogota and Etel Adnan in Beirut, during his early research of the idea.
'We found it interesting that this partnership with Maharam could be an exhibition of wallpapers that might be seen in houses all over the world and would actually lead to a dissemination.' 'It is possible for all of us to commission architects, designers and indeed artists, to do something specifically for us,' Peyton-Jones says. 'However, having wallpaper that you can buy by the roll, to cover a wall, a room, or a [whole] house or apartment, means that you can be your own curator in your own home.'
The collection's vibrant patterns range from the abstract to the photorealistic, and are all realised using the fine-art grade, digital printing techniques that Maharam has finessed since launching its Maharam Digital Projects arm in 2009. Each artist's design is printed with UV-resistant inks onto a latex- reinforced substrate. The end results possess all the durability of traditional wallpaper.
Apart from John Baldessari's four designs, which originally appeared in a 1998 exhibition in Zurich, each pattern is freshly minted. From Marc Camille Chaimowicz's illustrative 'Pavilion' design, which depicts the Serpentine building in its Kensington surroundings, to Ai Weiwei's self-referential 'Golden Age' and Rosemarie Trockel's restrained shapes, the works are not just familiar favourites on a roll.
'The patterns were created in dialogue with the artists, and on the basis of past work that had been underexposed,' comments Michael Maharam, the wallpaper company's CEO, who helped set the course of the Serpentine Galleries' venture. While the choice to include designs from SANAA and Toyo Ito might seem an unusual turn, the architects' involvement highlights the increasing cross-pollination between art, design and architecture, which the Serpentine Galleries has long pioneered.
Everyone involved in the collection was given creative carte blanche. Maharam provided only technical guidance to ensure a distinguishable pattern was created. Dung Ngo, the brand's editorial director, explains, 'Because artists' works are generally unique as a composition, they can struggle with the idea of a repeatable pattern. The best way [of working] has often been for us to create a repeat with the art they give us, so they can see what it looks like on a wall. Once they see it, it is much easier to make adjustments.'
Briefly showcased at a Libby Sellers - curated show at La Rinascente, during April's Salone del Mobile in Milan, the collection will debut officially at Frieze New York this month.'We see it as an evolving exhibition,' says Obrist, 'like the Serpentine Pavilions, which have been going for 15 years. We hope there will be 200 years of wallpaper.'
As featured in the June 2015 (W*195) issue of Wallpaper*