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

‘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.

Whitechapel Gallery

77-82 Whitechapel High Street, London, Greater London, E1 7QX

020 7522 7888


Opening times

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

50% off exhibitions with National Art Pass

Haven't got your pass yet? Learn more

Exhibitions and events at Whitechapel Gallery

Exhibitions nearby

Back to top