On March 29. 2016, the Sydney Opera House publicly unveiled the Utzon/Le Corbusier tapestry, an extraordinary collaboration between two of the 20th century’s greatest architects for one of the 20th century’s greatest buildings.
In 1958, just a year after winning the Sydney Opera House design competition, the little-known Jørn Utzon approached one of the most famous architects of the age, Le Corbusier, to collaborate on the Opera House. The result was an exquisite tapestry, Les Dés Sont Jetés (‘The Dice Are Cast’).
More than 50 years on, the tapestry will hang in the Western Foyers, one of only two Opera House interiors designed by Jørn Utzon. Acquired through the support of Opera House donors, the tapestry is a rare glimpse into Utzon’s original vision for the Opera House interiors and a signal gift as the Opera House’s Decade of Renewal gets underway.
Sydney Opera House CEO Louise Herron AM said: “It is wonderful to be injecting such an extraordinary piece of the original DNA back into the Opera House as we embark upon projects that will touch all four corners of the building. The Utzon/Le Corbusier tapestry resulted from an historic collaboration. Jørn Utzon always intended the interiors of his masterpiece to be filled with the work of the great artists of his day. This is a remarkable work and a remarkable insight into his original vision.
“It is wonderful that Opera House donors - led by the late Peter Weiss AO - have enabled us to put this work on public display at such an exciting time. This work honours the past and inspires the future. Our Decade of Renewal is about ensuring the bold spirit that inspired the Opera House continues to inspire future generations. It will be a daily reminder of the standard of excellence which we must meet in all we do.”
It was bold of Utzon to invite the Swiss-French architect to create Opera House artworks. Le Corbusier famously did not collaborate with other architects. At that stage the Sydney Opera House existed only in drawings. But, incredibly, Le Corbusier agreed.
In 1959, Utzon and Le Corbusier met in Paris to discuss the collaboration. One year later, the tapestry was woven in the French town of Aubusson and delivered to Utzon at his home in Denmark.
It hung in Jørn Utzon’s home in Hellebæk, first in the dining room and later in the workshop of his son, Jan Utzon. In 2015, the Les Dés Sont Jetés was acquired thanks to the support and generosity of a group of donors and staff, and facilitated by the NSW Government.