Monday, 20 July 2009

Who Produced Robert Indiana's First Love Rug? Charles E Slatkin, Marie Cuttoli or John Gilbert?

Robert Indiana's (American, b. 1928) Love rug is by far the world's best selling carpet designed by an artist in the twentieth century. Almost thirty colour variations of the Love rug exist and were produced in different sizes by various manufacturers. All the registered rugs, carpets and mats with this design total over 15 000 pieces. They appear regularly in any Contemporary Art auction and on Ebay sites worldwide.

The design was initially created for a Christmas card for the New York Museum of Modern Art in 1964. Painted as an oil on canvas in 1966, it was later reproduced as a sculpture in 1970, and consequently exhibited all over the world. In 1973 it was reproduced on an American stamp of which 333 million were printed.

This iconic Pop Art rug, generally called Classic Love, using red letters on a blue and green background, was produced by the artist in conjunction with the master rug maker John Gilbert and the Master Contemporary Original Artist Rugs, as a 6 feet x 6 feet (72in x 72in, 183cm x 183cm) sized rug of which 150 were produced in 1995. A signed and numbered label is glued onto the backing. The rug is tufted and the pile is 100% wool, while the backing is if blue canvas. The signature of the artist is sheared in a corner.

American Tapestries, Charles E Slatkin Galleries, 1968, p23, 10' x 9' 11" (304cm x 301cm). The Carpet Index Library.

For many people this is the first rug produced with this design, but this is not strictly true. In fact Robert Indiana had already contracted an American editor, Charles E Slatkin Inc Galleries of New York, to produce a limited edition of about twenty rugs in 1968 as a hand knotted silk tapestry featuring four Love words and called Love Wall. The carpets were hand woven in India. It was conceptualised in 1968 as a painting and was very soon reproduced as a tapestry/carpet. This design also became a sculpture.

The rug appeared recently in two of the following auctions with a different size and description:

1) Bonhams Ltd, Knightsbridge, London, April 16 2008, lot 104, with the following text: silk and wool tapestry, produced by Modern Master Tapestries Inc, New York, 183cm x 183cm (72 1/16in x 72 1/16in).

2) Lombrail-Teucquam, Paris, May 27 2009 lot 107. Hand knotted in wool, Marie Cuttoli & Lucie Weil editions, less than 20 pieces, 185cm x 185cm.

Living in Paris, I have actually seen the latter rug and can state that there was no Modern Master label attached, but the name INDIANA was embroidered onto the backing along with the C signifying copyright. I have contacted the auction house experts for more details and they were able to explain that besides the reference to Slatkin silk pieces, the French manufacturer had produced other wool rugs with specialist sizes including the present lot 107. These production pieces were limited.

I also looked at the structural photos of the other tapestries from the 1968 Slatkin catalogue contained in my database, and compared them with the last Cuttoli Picasso rugs, they are similar.

This proves that Marie Cuttoli was still active in 1968 through different partnerships and was very involved in the promotion of new American artists. In fact, she never retired completely from the international art and tapestry scene. She died in the 1970s.

Post written by Jean Manuel de Noronha


Anonymous said...

Good dispatch and this fill someone in on helped me alot in my college assignement. Thank you for your information.

Steve Basile said...

Do you have link to the auctions in this discussion? Thanks.

John hopper said...

Jean Manuel is unwell at the moment and unfortunately cannot answer you himself. Going through Google should get you to the auction sites mentioned, though I will bring up with jean Manuel the possibility of putting more links within the blog to relevant sites in the text.