Wallpaper in Art of Two Germanys, Part I

January 7, 2009

As part of the upcoming exhibition Art of Two Germanys/Cold War Cultures, one of the museum's galleries has been covered in a carefully recreated version of blue and white floral wallpaper. Today, Curatorial Assistant Dorothea Schoene explains why; tomorrow, we'll give you a closer look at how it was done.

Floral wallpaper is characteristic of the living space design of the German petit bourgeois in the 1960s and '70s. It reflects the desire of an entire social class in postwar Germany to express their newly gained economic wealth. However, this group's unshakable belief in material goods, coupled with overall narrow-mindedness and conservatism, soon became a target for mockery by the younger generation and artists.

Artists like Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter, whose work in the 1960s was often labeled "Capitalist Realism," were leaders of this social critique. Their "Capitalist Realism" implies a sense of popular realism, funny content and criticism of Western bourgeois culture. Gerhard Richter's installation Volker Bradke is exemplary of his critical perspective.

Gerhard Richter, View of Volker Bradke exhibition, 1966, photo courtesy The Cranford Collection, London

Gerhard Richter, View of Volker Bradke exhibition, 1966, photo courtesy The Cranford Collection, London

The installation was shown during an unconventional group of seven exhibitions, each twenty-four hours in length, organized by gallery owner A. Schmela in 1966. Richter's topic was Volker Bradke, a young denizen of the Düsseldorf art scene. This virtually unknown, unimportant figure suddenly was faced with instant fame when Richter painted his portrait and hung small portraits of him all over the gallery space.

For the seven days of exhibits, the walls of the exhibition space were painted with the same flowery design that was seen in the German petit bourgeois living rooms. Its goal was to underline the idea of private space; it was a "Coffee and Tea" event rather than an art show. It questioned the status and value of the art and its presentation.

For Art of Two Germanys/Cold War Cultures, LACMA partly remade the original paint rollers that were used in 1966 at Galerie Schmela, which today is owned by the Konrad Fischer Galerie in Düsseldorf. Each of the two flowery patterns achieved in LACMA's gallery space is created using a stenciled paint roller. Come back tomorrow for a behind-the-scenes look at how we recreated the wallpaper for the current exhibition.

Dorothea Schoene, Curatorial Assistant