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Pushing Paper

A British Museum touring exhibition - Pushing Paper: Contemporary drawing from 1970 to now. 

Pushing Paper illustrates how artists experiment with the power of paper to express their ideas, pushing the medium in new directions.  

Amongst the oldest forms of human creativity, drawing is experiencing a resurgence in popularity as artists increasingly choose the medium to examine the modern world, with topics ranging from explorations of gender and political activism, to questions of belonging and human sexuality. 

For the first time, the British Museum co-curated this exhibition with partner museums from around the UK, including Durham University. In a new way of working, curatorial staff collaborated with the British Museum to decide on themes within the exhibition and to research and select the works on display, as well as contribute chapters to the accompanying catalogue.  

Explore more:

Exhibition themes

The exhibition investigates five key themes: 

Power & Protest

The artists in our first theme process and question the turbulent world around us, acting as enablers for change and asking whether a drawing has the power to change the world.

Systems & Process

One thing all the drawings in Pushing Paper have in common is the use of a line. From this simple line, different movements and ways of creating have emerged, but drawing remains key to the fundamental basics.

Place & Space

The earliest surviving drawings, made in prehistoric caves, show how humans have always been fascinated with turning an empty ‘space’ into a ‘place’; imbuing it with meaning and marking their presence.


Everyone has multiple identities based on religion, race, politics, language, culture, profession, sexuality, and gender to name a few. 

Time & Memory

Explores the use of drawing to depict the marking of time, evoking the memories of the artists and viewers.

Pushing Paper online exhibition

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Pushing Paper online exhibition – a digital version of the exhibition, including introductory texts, films of the exhibition, images and highlighted artists and artworks. 

Pushing Paper blog

Written by Amie Kirby

Virtual Gallery Tour

Activities to try at home

Inspired by the 'Pushing Paper' exhibition, get involved and have a go at these activities and create your own paper-based artworks. 


Identity is what makes you, you. This activity will get you thinking about what makes you individual and unique! 

Power & Protest

When people protest, they come together to show that they feel strongly about something, that they either like or dislike something. This can make you feel powerful in your likes, dislikes, beliefs and ideas. 

Space & Place

What do you see from you place and within your spaces? 

Systems & Process

Systems and process is about how artwork is created. Explore your potential and practice skills. 

Time & Memory

Join in the creative fun and create your own matching memory game.