“This was totally risky, and a totally new thing that hadn’t been done before by these artists, by anyone,” said Cindy Kang, the Barnes Foundation
curator behind the first major exhibition devoted to the entrepreneur, “Marie Cuttoli: The Modern Thread from Miró to Man Ray
” (on view through May 10th). The exhibition—which features tapestries, rugs, and other objects Cuttoli commissioned— showcases work by
, among others who joined her in weaving together textile traditions and avant-garde art.
“Tapestry was—at least in French art history—such a prestigious medium,” Kang added. “It was in decline, but it still had this historic tradition.” Whether or not she was difficult, as Rouault claimed, Cuttoli’s idea to create modernist tapestries was completely innovative—and a success. The art collector, gallerist, and self-made businesswoman spent years trying different ways for painters to work in fabric, from women’s fashion to rugs and, finally, tapestry.
It helped that Cuttoli was friends with many of the leading artists of her time. Years before she asked Picasso to design a tapestry, his work hung in either her French home or her Algerian home (she divided her time between the two, as the former wife of an Algerian-French civil servant). Later, when she opened a gallery in Paris, she befriended more painters and sculptors. “The fact that she was a collector and a gallerist was instrumental to her being able to do this project at all,” Kang said. “That’s how she established relationships; that’s how she established trust.”