The Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne opens Magdalena Abakanowicz. Textile Territories. Homage to Elsi Giauque
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The Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne opens Magdalena Abakanowicz. Textile Territories. Homage to Elsi Giauque
View of the exhibition Magdalena Abakanowicz : Every Tangle of Thread and Rope
Tate Modern, 2022–2023 © Tate, photo Norbert Piwowarczyk. Abakan Red, 1969, sisal, 405 × 382 × 400 cm, Tate, London. Abakan Orange, 1968, sisal, 360 × 360 × 45 cm, National Museum, Stockholm.

LAUSANNE.- The Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne and Fondation Toms Pauli are presenting an exceptional exhibition devoted to Magdalena Abakanowicz, a textile-art pioneer and leading 20th-century sculpture artist. Textile Territories celebrates the stunning works of Abakanowicz in the period 1960 to 1985 and brings to light the emergence of a new art form. Organised in partnership with Tate Modern, this international event offers a fascinating immersion into the Polish artist’s category-defying creative universe.

Magdalena Abakanowicz (1930–2017) was a key figure at the Lausanne Tapestry Biennials in the 1960s and 1970s, widely acclaimed for the power and originality of her woven creations. Her works were soon displayed in Europe, and then worldwide, so that by the 1980s the artist had gained global recognition on the contemporary art scene. After studies in painting and weaving, Abakanowicz began exploring the possibilities of organic fibre as a means of artistic expression, crafting large-scale three-dimensional works in biomorphic shapes that were given the name Abakans after her surname. The artist then shifted her focus to the human body, creating huge ensembles of limbless figures.

The Textile Territories exhibition traces the early period of Magdalena Abakanowicz’s international career between 1960 and 1985. Under the communist regime in Poland, the artist exploited the potential of fibre, a living and malleable material, to express in an innovative way a vision inspired by her observations of nature and humans. Lausanne, with its Biennials, the Alice Pauli Gallery and the many collectors in the region, played a pivotal role in Abakanowicz’s success.

The exhibition stages the artist’s early weavings, including large soft sculptures, castings, knotted works, and drawings that constitute the core of the show. Viewers will be able to discover major works such as Abakan Red, which was first displayed in Lausanne in 1969 and is now part of the Tate Collection. There also are a number of hitherto unseen works on view that belong to the Fondation Toms Pauli, holder of one of the largest collections of the artist’s work outside Poland.

The Tate curators’ selection of works has been reviewed for the Lausanne venue and augmented by 25 works from the Fondation Toms Pauli Collection and some lenders in the French-speaking part of Switzerland as well as by a major series of Backs, on loan from Tate. The choice of the additional works highlights the important donations made to the State of Vaud by Association Pierre Pauli, the collectors Pierre and Marguerite Magnenat, and the Alice Pauli Gallery.

In parallel with the world of Abakanowicz, a room dedicated to Elsi Giauque (1900–1989) brings to light the poetic and colourful creations of this Swiss artist. Considered the doyenne and leader of the New Tapestry movement in Switzerland, Giauque’s explorations of geometric worlds composed of lightness and transparency provided important innovations. After a successful career in interior design and teaching, from 1965 she devoted herself to creating works that explored the interplay of colours, materials, and light. The two artists participated in the Lausanne Biennial events over the same period and were known to hold each other in great esteem.

The itinerary of the exhibition offers viewers a captivating immersion into the artistic universe of these two major personalities. The works of Magdalena Abakanowicz bear witness to her tireless search for new forms of expression through the use of organic fibres, while the geometric compositions of Elsi Giauque demonstrate her boldness and her mastery of colour and yarn.

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