Bodies of Colour: Breaking with stereotypes in the wallpaper collection

4 May 2018 – May 2019

This latest exhibition uses the Whitworth’s extensive and significant wallpaper collection to focus on how imperial attitudes to people are reflected in wallpaper.

The wallpapers in this exhibition were designed in Western Europe (and a few in America) but inspiration for the patterns comes from across the globe. The popularity of wallpaper grew through the 18th to 20th centuries, at the same time as the rapid expansion of the British Empire; the collection spans these three centuries. The exhibition contains a mix of commercially available wallpapers as well as wallpapers made by artists.

This exhibition deals with some difficult questions.

Racism is a system of oppression originating from the belief in the superiority of white people over others; it has affected many of us in different ways. The words and images that are used to describe our cultural identities are often contentious. Many unique and complex histories are touched upon in this exhibition. Our aim is to bring together different positions and experiences within an atmosphere of respect, learning and understanding.

The Exhibition Guide offers a brief introduction to some of the themes raised by the wallpapers on display. It is a starting point for stories, links and images that will grow through the year of the exhibition.

The team at the Whitworth have been discussing how we challenge racist representations within our collection. We all believe in this but don’t all agree about how it should be done. Bodies of Colour opens this up and invites you to contribute to an evolving conversation.


Caption: Zineb Sedira, Une Génération de femmes, 1997. Screen-printed wallpaper. The Whitworth, The University of Manchester


Further information:
  • Opening hours: daily 10.00 am-5.00 pm  (until 9pm on Thursday)
  • Location: The University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M15 6ER
  • Getting there: By foot: 20-30 minures from Manchester city centre; By Bike: Sheffield stands and lockers (£1 coin, refundable) both available at the gallery; By Bus: 15, 41, 42, 43, 140 – 143, 147 – ask for bus stop nearest MRI, Oxford Road; By Metrolink: St Peter’s Square (plus 10 minutes on the bus or 20 minutes on foot); Train: Oxford Road (plus 10 minutes on the bus or 20 minutes on foot); By Car: On-street parking (maximum stay, 2 hours) on Denmark Road. Nearest car park Cecil Street
  • Admission is free