OCTOBER 17 Textiles Designed With Warp, Woof and Wit at MoMA Jason Farago, New York Times

SEPTEMBER 23 Josef Albers's Manhattan returns to its rightful place in the MetLife building Helen Stoilas, The Art Newspaper

SEPTEMBER 23 Once Removed and Destroyed, a Modernist Mural Makes Its Return Nancy Coleman, New York Times

MAY 14 Harvard's sublime show makes you see Bauhaus everywhere Brian Allen, The Art Newspaper

MARCH 1 Free Form Glenn Adamson, Art in America

Installation view, Taking a Thread for a Walk, The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2019). Image courtesy The Museum of Modern Art; Denis Doorly

Textiles Designed With Warp, Woof and Wit at MoMA

The exhibition "Taking a Thread for a Walk" reveals the museum's underappreciated collection of fiber art and industrial design.

For every visitor impassioned by the new collection galleries at the Museum of Modern Art, someone else will lament the elimination of distinct realms for each department's holdings—above all for architecture and design, the MoMA department with the strongest institutional character. This is the museum that, literally, defined the International Style in its first architecture exhibition in 1932.

Let's clear something up! MoMA no longer encloses a mini-design museum that you can enter and exit with blinders on. But architecture and design (like photography, like film), still has dedicated galleries within the collection floors, and the museum has also reopened with a bounteous exhibition of textiles, fiber art and industrial design that should impress both specialists and omnivores.

Organized by Juliet Kinchin and Andrew Gardner, Taking a Thread for a Walk takes its title from a famous admonition by Paul Klee, the artist and Bauhaus instructor, to learn the fundamentals of drawing by "taking a line for a walk." At the multidisciplinary Bauhaus, that lesson extended to the design classes, where Anni Albers, most notably, translated the reforming spirit of the new academy to textile design. This show includes not only Albers's tapestries, gouaches, screenprints and drapery material from the 1920s to the 1980s, but also an entire loom. Less familiar than Albers's weavings, and just as compelling, is a syncopated wall hanging of wool, silk and metal thread from 1924 by Gunta Stölzl, the Bauhaus's only female master.

Soon innovations in textile design moved from the artisan's studio to the industrial factory. Designers like Harry Bertoia and Pierre Paulin relied on new elastic fabrics, stretched across metal frames, to create chairs. At the same time, fiber artists (mostly women) began to explore the sculptural possibilities of weaving, creating gorgeous but long misunderstood works that dissolved borders of art, craft and design. The Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz commands an entire wall with Yellow Abakan (1967–68), a weaving of coarse-grained, fraying yellow sisal suspended like a jacket on a hook.

Sheila Hicks, who learned weaving techniques from Anni Albers at the Yale School of Art, is here with two glorious, recently acquired sculptures of beige and coral linen, bundled like ponytails and heaped like doubloons. (Ms. Hicks is also one of the artists in Surrounds, where her flowing column of synthetic colored fibers stands at the entrance of the sixth-floor galleries.)

Like all the opening exhibitions at the new MoMA, Taking a Thread for a Walk draws almost entirely on the museum's deep holdings. Its curators have clearly taken some pleasure in exhuming the outliers of a collection that has been assembled less deliberately that some suppose. Who knew that Lillie P. Bliss, one of the three founders of MoMA, donated a Coptic tapestry of the enthroned Christ from around 800 AD?

Just as much, it discloses the proclivities MoMA has always brought to modern European design, and how thoroughly it's been shaped by the early fixation of Alfred Barr, its first director, and Philip Johnson, its first architecture curator, for the innovations of the Bauhaus. MoMA owns just a little Art Nouveau—such as floral fabric samples here by the German designer Richard Riemerschmid—and basically no Art Deco. That's not necessarily a problem, especially if curators deploy these objects smartly within the museum's new, less canonistic collection display. But as you pore over the exquisite textiles here, reflect, too, on the endurance of style, and how art history gets woven.


Installation view of Josef Albers's Manhattan, MetLife building, New York City (2019)

Josef Albers's Manhattan returns to its rightful place in the MetLife building

The colossal mural, recently recreated, has returned to its home near Grand Central Station

There was public outcry when Josef Albers's monumental mural, Manhattan, which for decades hung in the Modernist lobby of the Walter Gropius-designed 200 Park Avenue, better known as the MetLife building, was removed during a renovation in 2000. But nearly 20 years later, and in time for the Bauhaus's 100th anniversary, the mural has returned home, recreated anew following the artist's exacting specifications, and with the involvement of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation.

"It's reborn," says the New York architect Raúl de Armas, whose firm MdeAS is restoring the MetLife building for its new owner, the real estate companies Irvine and Tishman Speyer. Describing himself as a "devout Modernist," de Armas always planned to return the mural to its rightful place from the moment he took on the project. "There was never a drawing we did that didn't involve the mural," he says. His proselytising of the artwork's importance as an integral element of Gropius's design helped secure its return, and a photograph of the original mural remained taped up on the wall of the contractor's offices during the installation to remind everyone involved of the history being remade. "I was lucky enough to see the building shortly after it was finished [in 1963, as the HQ of Pan American Airways], and that mural took my breath away," de Armas says. "To see it gone left a big void."

The mural was removed as part of a renovation MetLife did just a few years before it sold the building to the current owners. "While we appreciate its importance in the art community, it just doesn't work for us anymore," a spokesman for MetLife told the New York Times at the time. The company had previously removed another artwork commissioned by Gropius, a pair of aluminum screens by the Hungarian artist György Kepes, while a wire sculpture by Richard Lippold has survived all the architectural alterations. "I wish there was a way in this city, where there are so many rules [around construction and urban planning], that something this important could be removed without impunity and no one being able to say anything about it," de Armas says.

"When the mural was taken down it was reproduced on the front page of the New York Times and I was mouthing off, as you would imagine, about how terrible it was that this great public masterpiece was being destroyed," says Nicholas Fox Weber, the executive director of the Albers Foundation. Several efforts to find a new location for it in New York—in Penn Station or Baruch College, on the side of the New School, at Santiago Calatrava's World Trade Center transit hub—were all unsuccessful. Its restoration was further complicated when the grid-like Formica panels that made up the mural were found to contain asbestos, and most of the original materials were sent to an Ohio landfill in 2012.

When art lives on

But as Albers once wrote: "No work of true art is ever destroyed." The foundation held on to a few original panels for reference, and also had Albers's instructions on how to refabricate the mural. When de Armas approached the foundation about recreating the work as part of the current renovation, they were able to match the colors and materials—minus the asbestos—exactly. The 486 new red, black and white laminate boards, joined in 42 panels, were built at All Craft Fabricators on Long Island, and the mural was carefully installed in the lobby over a few sweltering weeks in August. It was unveiled on 23 September, as the UN General Assembly held a historic Climate Summit in New York.

"We were able to create an even better space for the mural," de Armas says, by taking part of the garage to add 25ft to the wall on which the 55ft-wide by 28ft-high work hangs. Now framed by white travertine columns and recessed lighting, which replace the dark grey marble that once made the lobby seem dim, the mural once again greets commuters heading downstairs to Grand Central Station. "It's mind-blowing," de Armas says of seeing the mural back in its niche, as fresh and bright as it appeared when it was first installed. "Finally, it's in the right place, in one piece. It's almost miraculous that we were able to get it done."

Rob Speyer, the CEO and president of Tishman Speyer, says: "The Albers mural is part of the DNA of 200 Park Avenue and we are incredibly excited that it will once again be the focal point of its lobby."

Weber is also excited to have the work, which Albers once described as "my homage to the city of New York," return to its original location. "From the moment Anni and Josef arrived in New York in 1933, Manhattan was absolutely thrilling to them. They loved the energy of the city. They loved the grid. They marveled at the crowds and the museums and the general energy," Weber says. "Josef was delighted to know that as many as a quarter of a million people a day passed underneath that mural. The idea that a little bit of his energy entered their lives was a great thing for him."


Archival photograph of Josef Albers's original mural Manhattan (1963) at 200 Park Avenue, New York

Once Removed and Destroyed, a Modernist Mural Makes Its Return

Manhattan, by Josef Albers, hung above commuters passing through the MetLife Building for decades. Now, a replica towers over the lobby in its place.

Hundreds of interlocking panels—black, white and Coca-Cola red all over—made up Josef Albers's Manhattan, a mural in which geometry and meticulous precision met modernist vivacity.

It was undeniably busy, which was appropriate, given its home high above the commuters bustling to and from Grand Central Terminal through 200 Park Avenue, best known as the MetLife Building. The mural was ingrained in the design of the building. Ingrained in the mural was asbestos.

And thus ended the existence of a great German artist's ode to New York—until this week, when an exact replica of Albers's creation was unveiled in the same spot where it last loomed nearly two decades ago. The bright patchwork, a vibrant centerpiece in the lobby, has made its long-awaited return.

"This is what art was for him: something that could affect you, maybe gave a little bit of joy to the lives of those people rushing to their trains or rushing out of the station to their workday," said Nicholas Fox Weber, the executive director of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation.

Manhattan was originally commissioned for the building, which opened in 1963 and was owned by Pan Am. Walter Gropius, an architect of the skyscraper, was a founder of the Bauhaus—the storied German art school where Albers studied and taught.

The work towered over the MetLife Building's gateway to Grand Central for decades before its removal in 2000. "It just doesn't work for us anymore," a MetLife spokesman said at the time. (Mr. Weber said then that he felt "physically punched.")

So Manhattan went into storage, where it remained for several years. Tishman Speyer and the Irvine Company acquired the building from MetLife in 2005 and began thinking about how to revitalize the structure, including a plan to bring the mural back.

That was when they discovered the asbestos dwelling behind the Formica panels, leaving the original mural damaged beyond repair. The Albers Foundation saved some panels, Mr. Weber said, but much of the piece was destroyed.

It seems Albers, though, was into painting by numbers—or at least organizing 486 plastic laminate tiles by numbers. The artist died in 1976, but his original notes became a road map for his successors to construct the replica.

"He had a mathematical approach to art—there are numbers underneath everything he did," Mr. Weber said. "He made meticulous drawings so that the proper dimensions and proportions and fractional elements can be retained."

When plans to renovate the lobby took hold in 2016, the building owners reached out to the Albers Foundation to propose recreating the mural. A construction and architectural company in Long Island crafted the new incarnation, which was driven over in pieces and reassembled in Manhattan.

"It's all centered on a vantage point of the Albers piece," said Rob Speyer, the president and chief executive of Tishman Speyer. "We were able to take a piece of the building's history, which could've been forgotten, and instead restored it as the centerpiece of the building."

Along with Albers's drawings, the foundation provided some of the surviving panels for reference to keep the recreated colors accurate to the original. (None of these were physically incorporated in the new work.) One of Albers's other works also came in handy for color matching—a glass construction created decades earlier called City, on which Manhattan was based.

Nearly two decades after the mural's removal, Mr. Weber said its return has brought him "overwhelming joy."

"This mural is universal and timeless," he said. "Time got in the way when it was destroyed, but now it's back. It's resurrected."


Anni Albers
Design for a rug, 1927
black ink and watercolor over graphite with drawn and cut paper additions on paper
sheet: 12 5/8 x 9 7/8 in. (32.1 x 25.1 cm)
Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, Gift of Anni Albers

Harvard's sublime show makes you see Bauhaus everywhere

Harvard University has a long history with the Bauhaus artists, many of whom fled Germany when the Nazis took power and landed, one way or another, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. But it has not done a show from its 32,000-object Busch-Reisinger Museum archive since 1971—until now. For the movement's 100th anniversary, the Harvard Art Museums have organized a sublime, important exhibition to honor it, The Bauhaus and Harvard (until 28 July 2019).

So what is Bauhaus? The term literally means "building house" but the movement started as a school, so it is best to think of it as the "building school." The first critical ingredient in Bauhaus is that it demolished boundaries. Everything, in one way or another, from houses to pottery to carpeting, is built. The best of the Bauhaus artists, therefore, worked across categories: Anni and Josef Albers, Herbert Bayer, Marcel Breuer, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and, of course, Walter Gropius, who led the way when he came to Harvard to teach architecture in 1937.

The show is perfect for a teaching museum. Bauhaus was originally a school in Weimar, then Dessau, and most of the artists in the show either taught or studied there. The theme of mentors and protégés is just below the surface, that give and take between talented teachers and smart students that make both better. We see the senior masters like Gropius and Klee mold their students, like Anni Albers, and then give them the freedom and confidence to find their own vision. Albers did plenty of fabulous work, but among her achievements was adapting Bauhaus philosophy to 1950s and 1960s mass production.

The show starts in 1919 Germany, where Weimar's municipal art schools, which historically separated fine arts like painting and sculpture from applied arts like design, merged. This radical idea demolished hierarchies that once elevated, for instance, painters and sculptors above architects, weavers or furniture designers. Courses were based on materials—wood, metal, wool, paper, pottery—and what I call "properties," like texture, pattern, and color.

The Bauhaus style probably evokes to most people Minimalist, linear, cerebral design, sleek and taut, eminently practical and, at its purest, ascetic and dry. The show at Harvard swiftly suggests we put this image aside. A selection of color offset lithograph postcards from 1923 does the job, each designed by one of twenty students and teachers who had their own spin on the Bauhaus look. Some, like Dorte Helm, produced a trademark product: spare and geometric. Lyonel Feininger's, however, is a dense maze of blocks and looks like a medieval cityscape, Paul Klee gives us a rich palette, and Georg Teltscher a dynamic, kicking and twisting figure. Bauhaus, we learn, is richly various. It is also never frilly, sentimental, or fake.

The curator, Laura Muir, has conceived an intelligent, attractive display. Big things like Bayer's 20ft-wide mural Verdure, commissioned by the university in 1950, provides a compelling anchor. It is in the first gallery, which concerns Bauhaus teaching methods from the 1910s and 20s, but is placed on the back wall so that viewers see it at the end of a long vista. Bayer painted it for a new Harvard Graduate Center study hall, so it acts as a denouement of the Bauhaus learning experience. I has also just been cleaned so its dozens of lusciously abstract greens look fresh, shattering all preconceptions of Bauhaus art as arid.

The textile artist Anni Albers has been given a well-deserved place of pride in the exhibition, and while most visitors may know her husband Josef better, she is the golden thread running through the show. Anni Albers studied with Klee in the 1920s. The show displays her evolution from that point, such as her powerful Design for a rug from 1927, through to 1949. (The Bauhaus's weaving work was almost entirely done by women, a gendering-by-medium that was unusual since the movement was more open to women than most artist groups.) Albers, who went to Yale with Josef in 1957, had an unerringly subtle command of color, texture, and rhythmic pattern. She was among the key designers involved in the new Harvard Graduate Center constructed in 1949–50, the university's first Modernist building. By creating textile room dividers, she found a perfect balance among sound-proofing, ease of opening and closing, neutrality, and handsomeness.

Surprises? I love them. What is the point of seeing a show that merely confirms what you already know? I knew, for instance, next-to-nothing about Bauhaus photography. Werner Feist's Kurt Stolp with Pipe (1929) is just about the most striking portrait I have seen in a long time, a tight close-up, starting with Stolp's stubbly chin—a whisker jungle—and climbing up his face as if it is a mountain. Marianne Brandt's collage, Untitled with Anna Mae Wong (1929) is so wild and unexpected that the image is barely contained by her disciplined Bauhaus structure. It is a study in exoticism, that embraces not only the movie star Wong, who later was in King Kong, but a zebra, metal rivets, and glass.

I once thought Josef Albers was cold and bloodless but over the past few years, I have seen too many of his works that challenged me, and I have warmed to him. His small, Overlapping (1927), a stained glass panel with opaque black on milky glass, is gorgeous and strangely intimate.

Harvard was not the only place steeped in Bauhaus, though, and the fascinating H. Sophie Newcomb College in New Orleans figures in this show too. A pigment tone collage used in classes there in the 1940s is a whimsical though effective teaching tool.

And here is another measure of the overall Bauhaus effect and the show's strength: I went to the Bauhaus exhibition first, walked through the museum's splendid permanent collection galleries, had lunch, went back to Bauhaus, and then hit the antiquities and contemporary galleries. Bauhaus design was impressed in my head as I looked at every object from every era. Though I have seen many of these things a hundred times over the years, The Bauhaus and Harvard prodded me to see them differently, with refreshed eyes. That alone tells me it is a great show.


Anni Albers
Open Letter, 1958
23 × 24 in. (58.4 × 61 cm)

Free Form

The reviews are in, and they are rapturous. The retrospective exhibition of the weaver Anni Albers that began at the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Düsseldorf, and then traveled to Tate Modern in London, has been greeted from all sides as a revelation. Preeminent craft historian Tanya Harrod, writing in Apollo, argued that Albers's rigorous application to the structural logic of her medium "gave the art world space to make links with other forms of abstraction,"(1) and this observation has been borne out by many critics writing on the show. They have generally understood Albers through comparison to painters of her generation, yet also on her own terms, and have unstintingly recognized her contributions to the modernist project. Lynne Cooke praised the exhibition's curators—Ann Coxon, Briony Fer, and Maria Müller-Schareck—for conceiving an exhibition that "not only is but feels groundbreaking."(2) "Geometry is everywhere," Ben Luke commented in a five-star review in the Evening Standard, "but always infused with liveliness and movement."(3) The Times of London's Nancy Durant, after frankly professing her amazement that anyone could master something as complicated-looking as a loom, pronounced Albers a "powerhouse of modernism."(4) Most exuberant of all was Adrian Searle, who wrote in the Guardian that he had "almost inhaled this exhibition," finding in it not only "geometric rigour" but also "sensuality bordering on the sexual."(5)

Apart from the exhibition venues' own authority, what accounts for this embrace of Albers (1899–1994) by the critical fold—extending even to her estate's representation, as of 2016, by David Zwirner, one of the world's most powerful art dealers? Part of the answer lies in Albers's intriguing biography. She studied and later taught at the Bauhaus—in the weaving workshop, one of the few roles open to women at the school—and in 1933 joined the exodus of Jewish people to America, going first to Black Mountain College in North Carolina. The early stage of her career, then, positioned her at two of the best-known centers of the modernist avant-garde. (The cultural difference between the schools is conveyed by two photographs reproduced in the exhibition; one shows eleven earnest Weimar-era faces peeking through a big Bauhaus loom, the other, students clad in bathing suits, using simple backstrap looms on Black Mountain's sun-splashed roof.) Partly thanks to her institutional connections, Albers was given a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1949. Her books On Weaving (1965, recently reissued in an expanded edition) and On Designing (1959) made her thinking available to anyone who wished to understand it.

Yet for decades, like many other women artists of her generation and earlier, Albers seemed overshadowed by the men around her, most of all her husband, Josef, he of the concentric squares. Even in the very positive coverage of this new retrospective, the marginal status of weaving is ritually asserted, and indeed overstated. The medium is still "sidelined by the world's major museums," according to the New York Times, which must have surprised curators at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Louvre in Paris, and particularly at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The Met alone has staged three blockbuster textile shows in recent years; if there is an ongoing prejudice against the medium, it exists only within the relatively narrow confines of modern art.(6) In 2006 Tate Modern itself presented an exhibition on Josef Albers, in tandem with fellow Bauhausler László Moholy-Nagy, a polymathic genius. The comparison unfortunately made Josef seem rather fussy and inhibited, overwhelming the dry and subtle wit of his experiments, and made scant mention of Anni at all (or, for that matter, of Lucia Moholy). With the important exception of textile specialists Sigrid Wortmann Weltge and T'ai Smith, the Bauhaus weavers—not just Albers, but her teacher and colleague Gunta Stölzl, and fellow students like Léna Meyer-Bergner—were largely ignored by art historians.(7)

Over the past decade, however, this comparative neglect has steadily been remedied. An influential project in this respect was "Modernism: Designing a New World" (2006), curated by Christopher Wilk at the V&A. This international survey included many figures who infused craft disciplines with modernist aesthetics, Anni Albers among them. Then came "Bauhaus 1919–1933: Workshops for Modernity" (2009) at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which stressed the school's previously overlooked roots in craft and folk art. The so-called African chair (1921), a rediscovered collaboration between Stölzl and Marcel Breuer, was one of the revelations of that exhibition. Despite its name, this throne-like object is forged from traditional European elements: a high Gothic arch executed through simple joinery, with a bright blocked color scheme on the oak frame and in the upholstery. Anni Albers was splendidly represented in the MoMA exhibition by three major wall hangings, among other works. And she was again prominent in "Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933–1957," curated by Helen Molesworth at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, in 2015—a show that reinstated crafts to their rightful centrality in the college's story.(8)

Meanwhile, other twentieth-century textile narratives have been reaching wide audiences, beginning with the hugely successful exhibition "The Quilts of Gee's Bend," a revelatory look at the creations of a community of Alabama craftswomen, which began its triumphant tour of American museums in 2002. Among curators and artists alike, there has also been a reevaluation of postwar fiber art—for decades unfairly parodied as hippie macramé writ large. Here, the bellwether show was "Fiber: Sculpture 1960—Present," curated by Jenelle Porter at the ICA Boston in 2014. If the disciplinary playing fields have not quite been leveled, they've certainly become intramural.

It's against this backdrop that the positive reception for Anni Albers should be understood. Though critics have tended to treat her as a unique case—an attitude perhaps encouraged by the Tate's reductive tagline "an artist who changed weaving, a weaver who changed art"—in fact her work evolved within a much broader set of developments in the textile discipline. Albers, no egotist, recognized this. Fortunately, so did the retrospective curators. As Cooke noted, the Albers show successfully "limns a genealogy for her manifold vision," contextualizing her through the inclusion of several other modernist textile artists. Stölzl in particular emerged as an artistic personality of great interest. Her palette was as adventurous as Paul Klee's, her compositional sensibility an anticipation of Piet Mondrian's "Boogie Woogie" paintings of the early 1940s. It was also Stölzl who, in 1964, collaborated with Albers to re-create several of her lost Bauhaus wall hangings, and made fascinating alternate variations on their themes.

At the exhibition's heart was a section inspired by Albers's On Weaving. This included not only her notes, diagrams, and photos for the book, but also works by other major fiber artists she featured in its pages, like Lenore Tawney and Sheila Hicks (who had briefly studied with Albers at Yale), as well as a selection of historic textiles, some of which Albers collected on her travels, that informed her own designs. A serape from Querétaro, Mexico, with the visual knockout punch of a Bridget Riley painting, was one of several artifacts on view that demonstrate how textiles can illuminate our aesthetic universe. In fact, the most salutary aspect of the show was not so much that it incorporated a weaver into the modernist canon—as welcome as that may be—but rather that it unveiled a side of modernism that was intrinsically syncretic. Oppositions that now seem obviously simplistic and misleading—art/craft, autonomous/applied, form/decoration, tradition/progress—never had any traction for Albers in the first place. As Fer notes in the exhibition catalogue, On Weaving is "a visual atlas" premised on an anti-linear view, "demonstrated through a wide range of technical and aesthetic virtuosity from a global textile culture."(9)

When teaching at Black Mountain, Albers would often ask her students to imagine arriving in the Americas thousands of years ago, via the Bering Strait. Without any developed tools or technology at their disposal, what might they be able to make? She would then leap from this thought experiment to discussion of the mind-bending achievement of ancient Peruvian textiles, which she always held as the supreme expression of the medium, for their combination of technical intricacy and coherence of design. These artifacts inspired some of her own greatest works. Ancient Writing (1936), created shortly after the first of her many visits to Mexico with Josef, features floating supplementary weft threads that meander through the weave, rather than shuttling side-to-side in the usual manner. The effect is that of a free drawing against a textured ground. This was an intuitive reaction to the communicative function of ancient textiles, rather than a direct adaptation of their structures. More firmly grounded in Peruvian precedent were her later "pictorial weavings," like Open Letter (1958), which feature passages of intricate leno weaving. In this technique, the warps are twisted together, as in a braid. Each twist binds one or more wefts fast, and allows for additional space to be left between them while holding them in place. Albers's handling of the process is tightly regulated yet extraordinarily various. Up close, these works feel like universal lexicons, manifesting every conceivable interlocking configuration of threads.


Albers's masterpiece is arguably Six Prayers (1965–66), commissioned by the Jewish Museum in New York, when that institution was at the height of its engagement with Minimalism and other contemporary art movements. The project again shows Albers's imaginative response to historic textiles. The vertical panels have a clear resemblance to prayer shawls, and thanks to the use of silver thread, seem imbued with spiritual luminescence. Supplementary wefts—black and white yarns—maneuver stepwise up the compositions. These could be taken as writerly, perhaps a reference to Talmudic practices in which encoded messages are pulled from scripture. Yet, as Coxon notes, Albers was a secular person who approached religious commissions like this one with "characteristically ambivalent play between the courting and resisting of symbolism."10 The display of Six Prayers, in which the panels were shown alongside a woven study and a variation with more exaggerated vectors within the grid, called Epitaph (1968), was one of the glories of the show. Together, these works offered a reminder that textiles are ideally suited for the exploration of a central modernist tactic, that of using the grid as an armature for expressive aesthetic gestures.

In later years, partly due to waning physical strength, Albers did less weaving and increasingly turned her attention to printmaking and embossing. This brought her closer to her husband Josef's manner—cool and assured, but somewhat mechanical. (Not so the preparatory drawings she made, which have her familiar intensity.) She also found ongoing success as a designer for industry. This had been a primary intention ever since her years at the Bauhaus, but one she realized regularly only in the context of America's postwar prosperity. Another highlight of the exhibition was a presentation of the scheme she devised in 1949 for the Harvard Graduate Center dormitory, at the invitation of her old colleague Walter Gropius. The curators wittily reversed the common presentation of architecture, in which one sees the building but not its furnishing fabrics; here, the room itself was indicated with a bare frame, just enough to suggest the functionality of a bed cover and room divider. (In a later filmed interview, Albers explained her pragmatic approach to this all-male environment: she developed fabrics that would not show a cigar hole.) From the 1950s onward, Albers continued to apply herself to designs for Knoll and other companies, often incorporating new synthetics like Lurex and cellophane. When seen in proximity to her pictorial weavings, these manufactured yard goods do tip toward blandness; on the other hand, alongside furniture by Breuer and Mies van der Rohe, they helped make the Bauhaus dream of domestic modernism a reality.

There were many other well-judged moments in this thoughtful and beautifully executed exhibition. There were little asides, like the inventive jewelry Albers made with a Black Mountain colleague out of ribbon, bobby pins, eye hooks, corks, and an aluminum strainer—child's play elevated. There was the bold choice to bookend the show with two looms, an unapologetic assertion of Albers's artisanal foundations. The one in the first gallery was set up with red, white, and black threads—as if the artist had just stepped away from her work for a moment. The loom in the last gallery, Albers's own, happened to be of a brand called Structo Artcraft, as if in summary of her career. There was, too, the inclusion of a film showing artist Ismini Samanidou working on that very loom, shot at the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation in Bethany, Connecticut, which has done so much to sustain both artists' legacies. Such were the numerous satisfactions of this show; every artist of Albers's quality deserves an exhibition so finely wrought. She was one of many craftspeople who made signal contributions to the artistic currents of their day. Most are still underappreciated. This is not (quite) the first show to recognize that fact; let's hope there will be many more to come.

(1) Tanya Harrod, "Anni Albers Weaves Her Magic at Tate Modern," Apollo, October 2018,

(2) Lynne Cooke, "Anni Albers," Artforum, October 2018,

(3) Ben Luke, "Anni Albers Review: A Brave New World Is Weaved in History at Tate Modern," Evening Standard, October 12, 2018,

(4) Nancy Durant, "Anni Albers at Tate Modern," Times (London), October 11, 2018,

(5) Adrian Searle, "Anni Albers Review—Ravishing Textiles That Beg to Be Touched," Guardian, October 9, 2018,

(6) Farah Nayeri, "At Tate Modern, an Anni Albers Retrospective," New York Times, October 8, 2018, The Met's textile exhibitions were "Tapestry in the Renaissance: Art and Magnificence" (2002), "Tapestry in the Baroque: Threads of Magnificence" (2007), and "Interwoven Globe: The Worldwide Textile Trade, 1500–1800" (2013).

(7) Sigrid Wortmann Weltge, Bauhaus Textiles: Women Artists and the Weaving Workshop, London and New York, Thames and Hudson, 1993; T'ai Smith, Bauhaus Weaving Theory, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 2014.

(8) The parallel story of the potter Marguerite Wildenhain, trained at the Bauhaus and briefly in attendance at Black Mountain, is told in Jenni Sorkin, Live Form: Women, Ceramics and Community, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2016, pp. 55–104.

(9) Briony Fer, "Close to the Stuff the World Is Made of: Weaving as a Modern Project," in Anni Albers, Ann Coxon, Briony Fer, and Maria Müller-Schareck, eds., New Haven, Yale University Press, and London, Tate Modern, 2018, pp. 21–22.

(10) Ann Coxon, "Temple Commissions and Six Prayers," ibid., p. 147.