In September 2015 I travelled to America and Canada. I went to New York, Montreal and Edmonton continuing my international research into collective remakings of Picasso’s Guernica. In New York Joe Hague (co-cameraman) and I visited the United Nations headquarters to see the Rockefeller Guernica. This was made possible by Cynthia Altman, curator at Kykuit, the Rockefeller Estate who looks after the Rockefeller collection of tapestries made after Picasso paintings. Accompanied by Cynthia we were able to gain access to the Tapestry which hangs in the Security Council corridor in the UN. The Tapestry featured in the exhibition by Goshka Macuga The Nature of the Beast (2009-2010) at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, UK. This exhibition is one of the four case studies featured in this research on collectively remade versions of Picasso’s Guernica. In the UN we moved the barrier a side that usually stands in front of the Tapestry so that we could view it very closely. This revealed the Tapestry’s fascinating texture adding a very regimented movement to the artwork but also a tension through the tightness of the weaving and a curious softness due to the nature of the threads used. The weight of the Tapestry caused it to undulate this only became apparent when viewing it close up and from the side.
During the UN visit Cynthia checked the condition of the Tapestry, as part of this process she looked at the reverse side, this revealed a label. On the label to the right the original work of art is acknowledged stating Picasso’s name and the original paintings title “Guernica”, the date of Picasso’s Guernica 1937 and the date of the Tapestry 1955 are also just visible on the far right of this label. The mark of the weavers studio is detailed on the left – a C with an A. The C stands for Cavalaire and the A for Atelier. The name at the bottom of the label is that of the lead weaver – J. De La Baume Durrbach.
The Tapestry has accrued its own value as a work of art and yet it has also been used to stand in for Picasso’s original painting from time to time. As part of a large collection of 18 tapestry art reproductions owned by Nelson Rockefeller it raises interesting questions pertaining to authorship and the popularity and collection of copies in the 20th century. K.L.H Wells has written about this topic in his 2014 article: “Rockefeller’s Guernica and the collection of modern copies.” In the context of my research project it adds yet another interesting layer of collaboration evident in the exhibition The Nature of the Beast (2009-2010). For Picasso approved each Tapestry version of his paintings created by the Cavalaire Atelier. As noted by Cynthia Altman Picasso “gave his permission for the specific tapestry to be made and then he approved the final weaving as well.” Three videos will shortly appear via this blog and on the website guernicaremakings.com focusing on the The Nature of the Beast exhibition including detailed discussion on the Rockefeller Guernica Tapestry in the third video.