Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Published in Textiles and Politics: Textile Society of America 13th Biennial Symposium Proceedings, Washington, DC, September 18- September 22, 2012.


Copyright 2012 by the author(s).


For over thirty years the International Tapestry Biennials were held in the city of Lausanne (Switzerland), making it the world capital of contemporary textile art. The event had come into being thanks to the encounter of Pierre Pauli (1916-1970), the then director of the Decorative Arts Museum in Lausanne, with Jean LurÁat, the French painter and tapestry designer, who had instigated the revival of French tapestry after World War II. The Lausanne exhibition was the first platform - and for many years the only one - to give textile artists the opportunity to explore new techniques and materials. As a result, textile art enjoyed thirty years of spectacular development. Artists began abandoning cartoons in favour of autonomous weaving, transforming the classic wall tapestry into a form of spatial and environmental art. They investigated the technical and expressive possibilities of unusual materials, as well as inventing and implementing new techniques. During the 1960's and 1970's, many artists from Eastern Europe - at that time behind the Iron Curtain - were invited to participate. Switzerland had remained neutral during WWII and was thus the perfect venue for international shows, far from the political tensions of the Cold War. It provided a platform for total freedom of artistic expression. Some examples of artists from Poland, Bulgaria and Romania will show how a small city such as Lausanne, with no textile tradition of its own, could help launch them on international careers.