Find the most important artists of your day. Then convince them to make textile art. At Les Gobelins, they’ve done it since 1663. It got the mission from art-mad Louis XIV.
Today the huge buildings house 100,000 works. But the aim behind them never changed: it’s always been recruit the best, then let them work.
The current show at the complex, Masterpieces of Tapestry 1918 – 2018, shows exactly what this can mean. It features a century of very special commissions, from names like Matisse, Picasso, Kandinsky, Le Corbusier and Louise Bourgeois.
There’s every sort of style, from portraiture to poetic abstraction. (Picasso first made a collage, then turned that into a tapestry).
Seeing it all in such grand premises is delicious. There’s another work, a light show, on the staircase (below). But what’s mindblowing is how 20th century masters worked with ancient weaving techniques.
It’s uncanny, for instance, how 17th century weaving captures brushstrokes:
The Gobelins is one of most interesting sites in Paris. But it needs no publicity and visitors rarely see it. Nevertheless, it’s easy to find and rarely crowded.
If you love art, fabric or colour – make the time.
• “Au fil du siècle, 1918-2018, Chefs-d’œuvre de la tapisserie” Masterpieces of Tapestry 1918-2018, National Manufacture des Gobelins (practical info here); closes 23 September