A Handful of Dust

Whitechapel Gallery

7 June – 3 September 2017

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A speculative history of the 20th Century through the motif of dust.

Unknown, Benito Mussolini's motor car, 1955

‘I will show you fear in a handful of dust’ is from TS Eliot’s Modernist poem, The Waste Land, a response to the spiritual and cultural crisis following the First World War. In this exhibition, the 20th Century is explored through the dust and dirt created by human life, war and destruction, and natural disaster.

Starting with Man Ray’s 1920 photograph of a work in progress by Marcel Duchamp deliberately left to gather dust in his apartment, the exhibition ranges from American landscapes during the depression (Walker Evans) and the aftermath of an atomic bomb (Shomei Tomatsu) to domestic dirt and a mechanic’s hands, grimy from the car in which Mussolini tried to escape before being shot.

Over 30 artists and photographers are represented, including Robert Filliou, Mona Kuhn, Gerhard Richter, Sophie Ristelhueber, Jeff Wall and Nick Waplington. Their work is displayed alongside photojournalism, postcards and film clips.

Venue information

Opening times

Tue – Sun, 11am – 6pm (Thu until 9pm)
Closed 24 – 26 Dec

"Art Fund" is the operating name of the National Art Collections Fund, a charity registered in England and Wales (209174) and Scotland (SC038331)