Marie Cuttoli - Cindy Kang, Associate Curator, The Barnes Foundation on Marie Cuttoli
Thrilled to have Cindy Kang, Associate Curator at the Barnes Foundation back with us and talk to her about the inspiring Marie Cuttoli who is the subject of the upcoming exhibition Marie Cuttoli:The Modern Thread from Miró to Man Ray at the Barnes Foundation opening on February 23rd until May 10, 2020. This exhibition is organized by the Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, and curated by Cindy Kang,
What are some of Marie Cuttoli’s contributions and how important are they to the art world and art of tapestry?
Marie Cuttoli introduced the leading contemporary artists of her day – Picasso, Braque, Miró, Léger – to a new medium that they had not had the opportunity to experiment with before. She pushed modernism to seriously engage with the decorative arts and created a new way for artists to engage with mural decoration. Murals were one of the central artistic preoccupations of the time because of their potential to shape environments, affect a viewer’s experience of space, and therefore be meaningfully integrated into daily life. Cuttoli’s project was a significant contribution to this dialogue.
Would you consider Marie Cuttoli a pioneer in the art of tapestry and textile? Please elaborate your response.
Cuttoli was a pioneer in modern art, both in the way she revived an artisanal industry in crisis during the Depression and created a new product for the art market – modernist tapestry. She carved out a role for herself as a broker between artists, weavers, and clients that was unprecedented in the field.
Helena Rubinstein in front of Pablo Picasso’s tapestry Secrets, c. 1955
Photo by Erwin Blumenfeld ©The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld
I am fascinated by how advanced and progressive Marie Cuttoli was in her career during her time. She was an entrepreneur and an art collector, yet she remains fairly unknown in comparison to her renowned contributions. Why do you think that is?
There are many reasons for her relative obscurity. One is that in the postwar period, some of the artists she helped launched who continued to design tapestry, like Jean Lurçat and Le Corbusier, became the heroes of twentieth-century tapestry and diminished her role. Additionally, the decorative arts have traditionally not been appreciated at the same level as the fine arts, so Cuttoli’s achievements have not been as valued.
Le Corbusier (1887–1965). Marie Cuttoli, Woven in Aubusson, 1936. Wool and Silk, 57 7⁄8 × 68 7⁄8 in. (147 × 175 cm). Fondation Le Corbusier, Paris © F.L.C. / ADAGP, Paris / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 2019
Who are some of the artists that Marie Cuttoli collected and commissioned during her time?
Cuttoli was great friends with Picasso and collected his papiers collés, many of which she donated with her companion, Henri Laugier, to what is now the Musée nationale d’art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou. She also collected Braque’s work, she formerly owned his Large Nude (1908, Centre Georges Pompidou), as well as work by Léger, Raoul Dufy, Miró, Le Corbusier, and Louis Marcoussis, all of whom she commissioned to design textiles.
What can we do to continue discovering and recognizing women like Marie Cuttoli?
We can continue to support a diversity of voices in the field who are interested in bringing new stories to light. When many different types of people are encouraged to write history, and when their work is valued not just through praise but through financial backing, we will discover and recognize many more fascinating figures.
What is your favourite Marie Cuttoli quote?
The quote that springs to mind is not one from Marie Cuttoli herself, but instead one that was written by Thérèse and Louise Bonney in 1929 describing Cuttoli’s philosophy: “Beauty of one age is rarely incompatible with beauty of another.”
And lastly, if we were to remember three short/important facts about Marie Cuttoli, what would those be?
She was an entrepreneur in modern art who founded a groundbreaking gallery, launched her own fashion and interior decoration label, Myrbor, and revived the French tapestry industry.
Having married a French politician from Algeria, her career attests to modernism’s entanglement with colonialism.
She was particularly supported in the United States and her work, though unacknowledged, played a role in the history of postwar American art.