The journey to hang the curtains
Coburn’s family, including his wife Barbara and children Stephen, Kristin and Daniel, spent three years in France when their father created the tapestries with Pinton Frères. There were hurdles in getting the tapestries up. First, there were problems with fireproofing: the French convention of fireproofing the cotton warp of tapestries but not the woollen weft didn't suit NSW fire regulations. There were problems with the manufacture. Hall worried about gaps between the coloured shapes; Pinton Frères insisted they would be invisible once the curtains were properly backed. Hall insisted a team of sewers be retained to fill in the spaces and annoyed the French company by demanding it pay them for the additional work.
Once that was sorted and the tapestries were installed, some directors and set designers expressed concern with how the colorful tapestries clashed with the artistic direction of their sets. After a period of intensive use in the busy venues, the tapestries also started to show signs of significant damage including grease stains, burns, rips and tears and as a result, they were decommissioned in the late ‘80s.
At the same time, the build of the Opera House had a long list of problems. Jørn Utzon resigned when the project was only half complete because of intense pressure from the Government. Peter Hall, taking over, had to make the best of the project, in his own words, approaching the building as a ‘found object’. Some plans were revised: Utzon, for example, wanted a lush red and gold ceiling and boxes in the Concert Hall, blue and silver in the Opera House.