Pablo Picasso, Women at Their Toilette, 1971 – 1977
We’ve been reporting on virtual touring opportunities at European museums. But cities and towns are now beginning to open up in earnest, so we will shift our focus to physical museum experiences…cautiously.
Now, all but the most devoted art enthusiasts are likely to regard tapestry as an ancient art form, most often found gathering dust on the walls of drafty medieval castles or “classical” European museums. But a delayed exhibition, scheduled to open March 8, now opening June 1 at the Kunsthal Rotterdam, is intending to upend those stereotypes, and demonstrate how tapestry is still absolutely relevant.
Indeed, the new exhibition Extra Large presents a large-scale retrospective of imposing tapestries based on designs by Picasso, Le Corbusier, Miró, Vasarely, Alain Séchas and Louise Bourgeois. Created post-World War I, these little-known masterpieces represent a virtually unknown aspect in the bodies of work of these giants of modern and contemporary art.
Joan Miró, Composition No. 1 Woman at the Mirror, 1966
It turns out that since the beginning of the seventeenth century, the French State has been commissioning renowned artists to design tapestries that are brought to life in national weaving workshops. While the art itself originated for decorative purposes, the works often conveyed a sociopolitical message, or represented a historical revolution.
Although the French government may have been motivated to create these works to preserve the history and art of weaving, the complex designs of modern-day artists have resulted in technical innovation in technique and craft. For example, Picasso’s design, Les Femmes a leur toilette, was shelved for thirty years until weavers became experienced enough to begin working on the tapestry, which then took six years to complete.
Le Corbusier, Canapé II, 1963
The majority of the sixty-showcased works was produced at the historical institute Manufacture des Gobelins in Paris, and demonstrate the multi-dimensional aspects of the craft through the eyes of some of history’s most revered avant-garde masters.
Extra Large will be on view from June 1 through January 3, 2021 at the Kunsthal Rotterdam (just an hour by rail from Amsterdam), a museum which has in recent years gained international acclaim for its high-profile fashion exhibitions, including the recent Thierry Mugler: Couturissime.