For a very long time the Art of tapestry has been considered as outdates and vintage even though it was a matter of interest to some of the most celebrated Artists in History such as Matisse, Picasso or Fernand Léger. There countless of these Artists who tried the Art of tapestry. In order to do justice to this discipline, the Gobelins Gallery in Paris proposes the exhibition “Au fil du siècle, 1918-2018, Chefs-d’œuvre de la tapisserie” from April 10th to September 23rd 2018.
The Art of tapestry: a centuries-old discipline
The practice of the Art of tapestry started in Antiquity. Indeed, from Mesopotamia to Greece but also to Peru and China, the Art of tapestry has always been part of the Decorative Arts. For centuries, it was primarily the transcription of famous paintings into weaving through anonymous Artists. However, between the two World Wars, tapestries started to be redefined by contemporary Artists who transformed its use. As a result, great Artists such as André Masson, Le Corbusier or Fernand Léger played along with it. In 1947 for instance, Matisse translated his Artwork entitled “Woman with a lute” into a wool tapestry. Art-Trope interviewed Kore Yoors, son of Jan Yoors, internationally renowned Artist including for his revolutionary tapestries. “Most people look at tapestry as a craft or a historical artifact from the Middle Age. My father had a different approach. By weaving a unique tapestry from a full scale cartoon he questioned the idea of tapestry as a craft and a medium of manufactured multiple editions” Kore Yoors told us.
Going beyond the painting translation: contemporary tapestry
Since the 20s tapestry has radically changed its positioning. It is no longer acceptable to merely translate an Artwok into bodery. The woven versions are unique and transcend the original. In the exhibition “Au fil du siècle, 1918-2018, chefs-d’oeuvre de la tapisserie” at the Gobelins Gallery, the painting entitled “Pursuit” by André Masson is facing its woven counterpart. Other elements such as sand are mixed with it to create surprises. Also the iconic Artist of Kinetic Art Victor Vasarely uses tapestry to create optical illusions. The gallery presents his Artwork entitled “Dia or” which plays with relief to create a luminous square in multiple dimensions. Artists are pushing what used to be well established boundaries between Fine Arts and tapestry. It is the case for Artist Alicia Penalba whose Artworks combine natural and synthetic materials woven together and fixed on a frame. As a result, the limit between tapestry and sculpture becomes thin.
An unfairly forgotten Art
Despite the richness of tapestry and its History, it remains one of the most forgotten themes of the biggest institutions’ exhibitions around the world. In 2009, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York organized a symposium entitled “Redemption: Tapestry Preservation Past and Present” in tribute to the Burgos tapestry extracted for The Cloisters’ collections. However, the attention remains focused on the medieval or religious aspect of the discipline. Indeed, its modern and contemporary aspect is rarely put in the spotlight. The Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris hosted an exhibition in 2014 entitled “Decorum: carpets and tapestries by Artists” which put together Artworks by Artists essentially from the 20th century. Nevertheless, the museums’ collections usually don’t lack of woven treasures rarely shown. While waiting for the new contemporary tapestry rendezvous, the recent release of Jan Yoors’ biography entitled “Hidden Tapestry” by Debra Dean should give some materials to think about.
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