Lovable rugs: playful limited edition carpets at the 57th Venice Biennale

From the Haas Brothers’ vibrant animal hides to painterly abstracts

Renate Müller’s wool/silk Birds rug, edition of six
Renate Müller’s wool/silk Birds rug, edition of six

Proof positive that floor coverings can double as artworks is evident at the 57th Venice Biennale, where an imaginative collaboration between New York-based design gallery R & Company and Italian carpet manufacturer Amini is being showcased in Woven Forms, an exhibition of limited edition rugs by top-flight artists and designers at Palazzo Benzon, from May 10 to July 31.

Dana Barnes has used knotting, braiding, felting and twisting techniques on this rug
Dana Barnes has used knotting, braiding, felting and twisting techniques on this rug
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A joyous optimism characterises these unique designs (prices on request). The Haas Brothers’ vibrant series playfully riffs on classic animal skins, with Zebra, Mammoth and Dodo (each in an edition of 12) among its flamboyant rugs. Equally colourful is the jungle landscape conjured in Katie Stout’s Strange Fruit (edition of eight) which, like many other rugs here, was hand-loomed in Nepal using wool from Tibetan highland sheep combined with silk and took about six months to make.

Haas Brothers’ wool/silk Zebra rug, edition of 12
Haas Brothers’ wool/silk Zebra rug, edition of 12
Thaddeus Wolfe’s bold design is reminiscent of his intricate glass pieces, edition of six
Thaddeus Wolfe’s bold design is reminiscent of his intricate glass pieces, edition of six

Hung Chung Lee’s bold, blobby abstract Mandala (edition of three) is enhanced by the design’s sculptural relief; more painterly still are the alluring brushstroke impressions created by Wendell Castle (three designs in an edition of three), while a series of rugs by Spanish artist Lluis Lleo (each in an edition of three) evokes his own abstract paintings, and Birds (edition of six) by German artist and children’s toy designer Renate Müller features charming geometric line drawings of its titular subjects.

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The complex patterns often found in David Wiseman’s sculptural work are echoed in his rug’s narrative detail (edition of three), and similarly Thaddeus Wolfe’s boldly defined design (edition of six) is reminiscent of his intricate glass pieces. Texture takes centre stage for Rogan Gregory, who applied a special carving technique to his carpet’s surface, while Dana Barnes used a mix of knotting, braiding, felting and twisting techniques on her rug. 

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