What artwork is popular now?

Paper art is big right now. It’s surging in art markets around the world. Very high profile artists are showing hugely popular exhibitions made of paper and even high-end retailer Hermès is carrying a line of furniture made of papier-mâché.

“A thrilling spectacle”, The Procession, Tate Britain : Hew Locke.

In The Procession, Hew Locke embraces the simplicity of cardboard to create works that are immersive with powerful storytelling. Locke invites visitors to ‘reflect on the cycles of history, and the ebb and flow of cultures, people and finance and power.’ 

In his interview with Russell Tovey and Robert Diament on Talk Art, Locke says “I was trying to make an intense emotional thing…a colossal collage…cardboard was really important. It’s been important to me all my life. Cardboard itself is just great. Everyone understands it. During lockdown, cardboard became an essential thing. We understand it on a profound level”.

The work dominates the Duveen galleries with human scale cardboard and paper works inviting people to walk with them. This major commission by Tate Britain which runs until January 2023 is proof of the heady ascent and dominance of paper in the art world.

Installation view of Cathy Wilkes, Untitled (2012) at MoMA PS1. Courtesy of Xavier Hufkens.

Unsettling papier-mâché figures that creep into our psyche: Cathy Wilkes.

Cathy Wilkes creates  tableaus of vulnerable, impoverished-seeming, full-size papier-mâché figures, often children, unpainted and ghostly, in forlorn domestic scenes.

The Glasgow-based, northern Irish artist represented Britain at the 2019 Venice Biennale using paper, food packets, hat boxes and vegetable peelers.

“What gives her sculptures such force is not merely the thematic evocations of loss and distance, but also the generosity with which she presents them. True mastery, she suggests, lies in letting anxieties go,” said Jason Farago in a review of the PS1 exhibition in the New York Times.

Armchair in hand-painted papier-mâché by Hèrmes and Bijoy Jain.

Hermès transforms humble paper into objects of desire: Bijoy Jain.

We consider paper as disposable and short-lived. Yet paper is remarkably strong and enduring. When paper is turned into papier-mâché it is paradoxically strong and durable despite its lightness. In the mid-1800s, at least 30 English manufacturers were making decorative and useful objects and furniture from it, including tables, chairs and canopy bed frames.

Now it’s once again back in favor and in demand. No surprise then that high-end retailer, Hèrmes has created contemporary furniture with Bijoy Jain made of hand-painted papier-mâché.

Traditional vessels reimagined in paper: Ray Monde.

Inspired by the traditional form of Chinese prunus vases and fish bowls, artist Ray Monde creates contemporary paper vessels that recontextualise Greek mythology into modern queer experiences.

Made entirely of paper and decorated in collage, these subversive vessels cast a jagged eye onto queer culture. In his work Queercissus (above) Ray Monde examines the superficial body obsession that dominates gay circuit parties.

Even buildings are being made from paper: Shigeru Ban.

Concerns that paper art is less enduring than other forms of art were fully disproven when Shigeru Ban built an entire cathedral out of cardboard. Constructed as a simple A-frame structure from 98 equally sized cardboard tubes, the building is said to be one of the safest buildings in Christchurch, New Zealand, designed to be earthquake-proof. 

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