Tales of Thread – A tapestry exhibition

The big tapestry is hanging on the wall in Paris. Just above one of the pieces by Dubuffet. It works well here; I like it a lot. Suzanne as well is happy to have it. And with visitors I love watching them stammer and wonder exactly what this work, that they all are raving about, just might be.”   Jean Planque, in a letter dated 14 January 1968. – © Archives Antoni Clavé

We are not talking about haute-lisse or basse-lisse in Clavé’s “tapestries”. These are works made of an assemblage of various types of fabric (old clothes, pieces of used rugs, coloured fabrics), which are ripped up, cut, crumpled and then sewn back together by Madeleine, Clavé’s partner. Whether with her sewing machine or by hand, she followed a precise pattern defined by Clavé; it was clearly he who orchestrated the encounters between different materials and colour traps. These embossed tapestry-assemblages are imposing artworks, which depict the same themes found in Clavé’s paintings. The Rois and Guerriers come directly from Gargantua, a book for bibliophiles that Clavé illustrated in 1955 and which subsequently enriched the iconographical repertoire of his prints, paintings and sculptures.

From 1967 to 1969, Clavé created a series of paintings inspired by Parc Güell, a self-contained world, eccentric and sumptuous, where Gaudí offered a new interpretation of Art Nouveau, a synthesis between tradition and modernity. When Güell passed away in 1918, his heirs decided to give the property to the city of Barcelona. In 1926, it finally opened as a municipal park. Clavé, then an adolescent, discovered this amazing place, where nature and architecture complemented each other so well. The volutes, the floral motifs, the arabesques and multiple patterns in stencil are later included in works from 1967-1969 that pay tribute to Gaudí, to which belongs A Antoni Gaudí. The composition is rich, saturated with various materials and colours, with a very Catalan solemnity.

Jean Planque, agent and “eye” for Ernst Beyeler, was not mistaken. He discovered these extraordinary tapestries when visiting Clavé in 1966. He immediately purchased one and told Beyeler about these new exciting works, but to no avail. Planque persisted, talking to Creuzevault about them, Creuzevault who would go on to organise an exhibition showcasing these unusual tapestries. The works were later exhibited at Semiha Hübert in Zurich in 1967, then at the Picasso Museum in Antibes and at the Sala Gaspar in 1968.

This fall, the Custot Gallery in Dubaï is presenting “Tales of Thread”, an exhibition featuring 28 tapestries, rugs and works of textile art by 18 modern and contemporary artists, including Alexandre Calder, Eduardo Chillida, Antoni Clavé, Alice Anderson, Robert Delaunay, Sonia Delaunay, Maurice Esteve or Sheila Hicks.  “Tales of Thread” is celebrating the renewal of textile art, a perfect blend of the artistic reflections of European Modernism and a thousand year old craft.

« Tales of Thread » exhibition, works by Picasso, Clavé, Chillida

« Tales of Thread » exhibition, works by Sheila Hicks et Antoni Clavé