Former wall warmers, tapestries are now the coolest art hanging in the house.
Written by Ted Loos
Produced by Doris Athineos
Of all the art forms to have a resurgence these days, tapestry seems the most unlikely. Tapestries are often huge and unwieldy, time-consuming to produce, and emblazoned in our minds as an antiquated phenomenon suited to the castle of a Renaissance nobleman. They seem more 1613 than 2013.
And yet, to the surprise of many, the form is returning on two parallel tracks. First, interest in older, classic tapestries is on the rise; they are taking their place in our minds as equals to other media. When no less an institution than New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art was looking for a replacement for its director in 2009, its trustees appointed Thomas Campbell, one of its European decorative arts curators—known to some as “Tapestry Tom”—and the organizer of seminal shows like 2007’s “Tapestry in the Baroque: Threads of Splendor.”
“Art history is stepping back from its obsession with painting and sculpture and looking at the arts in context,” says Campbell. “The more you do that, the more you see that the great patrons were spending huge amounts on decorative arts like tapestry. There’s a whole new awareness of the significance of these objects.” (Click here to jump ahead to Campbell’s picks of top tapestries to view around the world.)
Shown above, a mid-16th-century Flemish tapestry is embellished with leaves, flowering branches, and exotic birds. It’s available at Keshishian, a London carpet and tapestry dealer.