Sydney Opera House Coburn Curtains

PROJECT DATE : 2018 AND 2019
project
Coburn Curtains
client
Sydney Opera House
services
Textile Conservation

Overview

A spectacular component of the opening of the Sydney Opera House in October 1973 was the specially commissioned opera theatre and drama theatre curtains. Titled respectively The Curtain of the Sun and The Curtain of the Moon these giant 16 metre tapestries were designed by John Coburn (1925-2006) and woven at the Pinton Freres workshops outside Paris.  It was Coburn’s most important commission to date, and largely established his career as well as a lifelong affair with tapestries (see related project).

The tapestries eventually fell out of favour, and were placed in storage in the late 1980s, making only occasional appearances.  Their key role in the overall Opera House aesthetic was recognised during the Sydney Opera House renewal project in the late 2010s.

ICS was commissioned initially to assess the condition and clean the tapestries.  We then worked with the Opera House to arrange their temporary installation in the Concert Hall in 2018, and in their original locations in the Joan Sutherland Opera Theatre and the Drama Theatre in 2019.  ICS is privileged to be part of the ongoing journey making these highly significant Australian artworks safe and accessible to the public.

Condition

The curtains had been heavily restored in the 1990s including the attachment of a backing material.  The surface was mildly dirty and had an extensive amount of fluff resulting from storage materials.

Treatment

Each piece was surface cleaned and brush vacuumed, front and back, to remove all particulates from the surface.  The existing Velcro hanging system, which previously replaced the original ring system, was secured.  A new temporary hanging system was devised for The Curtain of the Moon, and improvements were made to the storage of both tapestries.

More information

  • Watch this video from ABC Arts

project
Coburn Curtains
client
Sydney Opera House
services
Textile Conservation
The Curtain of the Moon temporarily in its original location in the Drama Theatre
Part of The Curtain of the Sun being cleaned

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