How to put together a tapestry show
In about two weeks, a big exhibition of tapestry will open at the City Art Centre in Edinburgh. Four years in the making, Tapestry: Changing Concepts is a collaboration between the venue and Scottish Tapestry Artists Regrouped (STAR*).
Why does a show need four years to get put together though? Isn’t it just a matter of putting the pieces up on the walls?
Migration, Joanne Soroka
I am the Honorary Secretary of STAR*, and we started to look for venues for our prospective show in 2017. We needed a substantial public gallery where our large tapestries could make an impact and where we could be assured of good footfall. We had had a successful show at the City Art Centre in 2011, so it was great that we were able to secure this place and build on that to show new work.
Numerous meetings followed. I worked closely with Fiona Hutchison of STAR* and Maeve Toal from the City Art Centre. Who would be included? How many works each? How would the selection be done? Did we need to apply for grants? Etc etc. There was no acrimony, but many decisions needed to be made.
At first we were going to have one floor of the CAC, but then we were offered two floors, meaning that more artists could be included. In the end, there will be 19 graduates and others associated with the former Tapestry Department of Edinburgh College of Art.
Criteria had to be established. For example, would we have only tapestry weaving, since many of the participants work in various media? We decided to broaden it out and have whatever media the artist worked in, provided it was of sufficient quality.
I Salute You, Amanda Gizzi
All artists submitted their work in digital form, with statements about intent, their biographies and details about the work. Getting artists to submit to a schedule can be a bit like herding cats, but it came right in the end. Once the selection was made, there were further meetings about the title of the show, transport and insurance (some of it was coming from overseas), merchandise for the shop and whether, under current circumstances, there would be a private view.
Quality is a given, but then the show had to hang together as well. A disparate group of exhibitors makes pulling an exhibition together more difficult, since some pieces may be excellent but look terrible next to others. Would we do a spacious hang, giving lots of space to each work, or include more works to show the range of possibilities? The hanging of the show would also have to be preceded by mockup layouts to work out which pieces look right together.
We have started to do the publicity – contacting journalists and giving interviews. Another big exhibition of tapestry is also on at the same time, the Cordis Prize for Tapestry, which all helps to raise the profile of the medium and excite interest.
Yes, it’ll be alright on the night.
Tapestry: Changing Concepts at the City Art Centre, 2 Market Street, Edinburgh EH1 1DE, Scotland
13 Nov 2021 – 13 Mar 2022
Artists include: Jo Barker, Archie Brennan (1931-2019), Gordon Brennan, Sara Brennan, Henny Burnett, Amanda Gizzi, Linda Green, Stephen Hunter, Fiona Hutchison, William Jefferies, Tessa Lynch, Fiona Mathison, Jo McDonald, Susan Mowatt, Ann Naustdal, Matteo Rosa, Cristina Sobrino, Joanne Soroka and Lesley Stothers
from Scotland, England, Norway, Spain, Ireland, Italy, Canada
Further information about the exhibition: https://www.edinburghmuseums.org.uk/whats-on/tapestry-changing-concepts
The Year of Tapestry https://joannesoroka.co.uk/the-year-of-tapestry/
The Cordis Prize Exhibition https://joannesoroka.co.uk/the-cordis-prize-exhibition-and-symposium/
Featured image: Swirl, Jo Barker