Before you ask, no, I don’t have any photos of the tapestries but I did take a few shots of the Museum and grounds. The museum police were quite specific about the photography rules for this exhibit. Even when tried a stealthy phone shot I got the no-no finger wave.
What’s happened at the San Antonio Museum of Art is amazing. Nelson Rockefeller loved both the modern style of Picasso’s paintings and the more medieval tradition of woven tapestry. Rockefeller commissioned 18 Picasso works including Harlequin, Girl with Mandolin and Three Dancers to be created as tapestries. Picasso himself worked with a French textile artist, Madame Jacqueline de la Baume Dϋrrbach, who wove each tapestry by hand.
A small photograph of the original Picasso is displayed along side each tapestry , the likeness is uncanny. Working with paint and brush is one thing, there is room for fluidity, ad-libbing brush strokes and even circling back when things aren’t quite what you want. But working with wool on a loom seems more restrictive. Also some of the pieces were 10 foot spans which had to be loomed separately then assembled. I tried to find some seam or other tell tale sign that the final product had been pieced together but not a trace.
Most of these pieces are usually hanging in the Rockefeller’s Hudson River Valley estate , Kykuit, and have never been shown to the public. You might wonder how they came be be displayed in San Antonio; a valid question. Nelson Rockefeller was an avid collector of Latin American Art and his estate donated art and resources to create San Antonio’s 30,000 square foot Latin America Art Collection. It is entirely appropriate for a city having 60% of its population with origins in Latin America. This set up a good working relationship between the museum and the Rockefeller estate which, according the the museum, is why the exhibit is hosted in San Antonio.
In any case, if you want to see the collection, visit San Antonio before the pieces go back to Kykuit on 8 March. The Museum grounds are interesting too, make sure to pop around back to see some stone arches from the 1930’s.