You might think tapestries were buried with the codpiece back in the Middle Ages but a new exhibition has given the woven wall hanging a 21st century makeover.
Christopher and Suzanne Sharp, the couple behind The Rug Company, have commissioned 14 contemporary artists to breathe new life into the forgotten art. Gavin Turk, Gary Hume, Paul Noble (whose progress we monitored in W*116), Grayson Perry and Peter Blake are just some of the artists who’ve ditched the flower and battle templates of yore, instead translating their own work into epic yarns.
The Sharps’ inspiration was twofold as Christopher explains: ‘The density of the knot in a rug makes it difficult to convey detail, so working with artists has always been quite tricky; everything tends to be a bit blocky and Rothko-esque.’
‘We were also fascinated by the tradition of the tapestry as a status symbol in medieval times. Noblemen would travel around the country with their tapestries and hang them wherever they went: the bigger they were, the greater the status of the owner.’
Sharp found producers in Shanghai who were willing to devote their time entirely to the project, which has taken three and a half years to come to fruition. Made entirely by hand, the detail, skill and sheer size of each tapestry makes for a spectacular show.
Unlike their itinerant forebears, these 14 tapestries are staying put for a while at least in The Dairy, a former milk depot in central London.