The role of Lausanne International Tapestry Biennals (1962-1995) in the revival of contemporary Textile Arts.


The Lausanne international Tapestry Biennal was a series of well-known exhibition, organized in Lausanne during the period between 1962 and 1995. The success and popularity of the exhibitions were rather unexpected, since Lausanne was nothing more than a small city in Switzerland with no textile tradition of its own. The show initially included only tapestries although gradually started to embrace much more forms of experimental Textile Art. The organization of the event was an idea of Pierre Pauli (1916-1979), an art lover and Jean Lurçat, an established French painter and tapestry designer. Jean Lurçat was also a leading European figure noted for his role in the revival of contemporary tapestry after World War II and for his contribution in calling major painters such as Picasso and Manessier to design tapestry projects.
Lausanne International Tapestry Biennal, textile art, biennal,

Alice and Pierre Pauli, had met Lurçat in the early 1950s. In 1959 decided together to hold regular biennal tapestry shows in Lausanne, while in 1961 they founded the International Centre for Modern and Ancient Tapestry (CITAM). The director of CITAM was, until his death, Jean Lurçat. From 1962 to 1995, during three decades, CITAM organized 16 tapestry shows and until today, those shows are considered milestones in contemporary Textile Art. At the first Lausanne Biennial, most of the tapestries displayed were figurative and very large since exhibition regulations required that tapestries should measure at least 12 square metres. At the time, tapestry was still considered a mural art, directly related to architecture.

Lausanne Tapestry Biennals, were the first international platforms - and for many years the only ones- that encouraged artists to experiment with new materials and techniques. Many artists, under the influence of those exhibitions, decided to depart from classic weaving designs and started experimenting with original designs, new techniques and unusual materials. The classic woven wall hangings started to transform into installation art and sculpture and soon a whole new world of three-dimensional textile art made its appearance.

With every Biennal the work submitted seemed to have undergone a deep transformation, figurative to abstract, two-dimensional to sculptural, wall hangings to free-standing pieces. By the time of 15th Biennal in 1992 the word "tapestry" has disappeared and the name has change from international biennal of tapestry to international biennal of Laussane contemporary textile art. That change of name encouraged more artists, who did not weave or spin, to participate in the exhibition. Moreover, the artists themselves began to feel more closely with the fine arts than with the craft world.

Laussane Biennals gave textile art the chance to construct a new identity as an autonomous artistic expression and become part of contemporary art world. However, the shows attracted a variety of responses, some negative, but undoubtedly, many artists made their names through it. It was also valuable that the exhibitions focusing interest was on the various forms of expression within the field of textiles. Many of the exhibitors were internationally acclaimed artists, such as Magdalena Abakanowicz, Jagoda Buić, Olga de Amaral, Ritzi and Peter Jacobi, Elsi Giauque and Naomi Kobayashi. 



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