If the tapestry craft has gained significant visibility in both fashion and decoration circles in recent years in France, it is in great part due to the influence of the Cité Internationale de la Tapisserie in Aubusson, the nerve center of this historical know-how in the country. Winner of the Parcours award at the 2019 edition of the Liliane Bettencourt Prize for the Intelligence of the Hand, the Cité is currently in the midst of a major creative project: the creation of 13 wall tapestries (and a floor tapestry) woven from the original designs of J. R. R. Tolkien, author of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. “This project is a way for the Cité to revive the tradition of the great tentures, or narrative tapestries of the 17th and 18th centuries, that are comprised of several panels that progressively tell a story. As we were casting around for the ideal subject, Tolkien quickly came to mind!” comments Bruno Ythier, curator of the Cité Internationale de la Tapisserie. The sixth tapestry in the Tolkien series, currently being woven, is a mixture of linen, silk and wool—a technique that allows the weaver to experiment with multiple textures and effects. For the choice of colors, “we approached the piece by asking ourselves how Tolkien, in his time, would have chosen the different tints. The result is a very graphic treatment of the weaving, pure and non-blended colors as well as fewer colors, more technique and a thicker wool to create a more textile-like tapestry,” adds Ythier. The tombée de métier (the unveiling ceremony for a tapestry) of this sixth opus is scheduled for mid-September.
Also currently on show at the Cité is Le Mur et L’Espace, an exhibition at the Centre Culturel et Artistique Jean Lurcat (Aubusson), featuring some 30 works originally exhibited at the Lausanne International Biennale in the 1960s. The selected pieces “had a seismic effect” on the tapestry tradition at the time, says Ythier, with the appearance of the first three-dimensional works that resulted in “freeing the tapestry from the wall” as well as the arrival of women artists and weavers who shook up the traditionally male craft with their highly original creations.
The Cité, founded in 2016 following its classification as an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 2009, is dedicated to the transmission of tapestry know-how and the preservation of its historical heritage.