Archie Brennan was a tapestry weaver born in Roslin in 1931. He began his 60-year weaving career at Dovecot Studios, Edinburgh as an apprentice before becoming Artistic Director of the organisation. During his career, he established graduate and post-graduate courses in weaving and fibre art at Edinburgh College of Art, and was instrumental in founding the Australian Tapestry Workshop in Melbourne.
Yet unlike his peers and friends, such as sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi and actor Sean Connery, he remains one of the greatest unrecognised British artists of the twentieth century in the pop art canon, despite his success in the world of weaving. Over his 60-year career, he designed and created radical tapestries with wit and playfulness, depicting figures from Muhammad Ali to Princess Diana in his work. He moved from being a master of modern tapestry by the 1960s to a postmodern iconoclast, deconstructing and reforming the medium from the 1970s onwards using an unparalleled technical approach.
As well as being innovative weaver, a skill he taught all over the world – Papua New Guinea to the United States where he spent the last 30 years of his life. Brennan was a successful bodybuilder in his youth gaining no less than a Mr Scotland title in the field.
In a step to undo his relative anonymity, Dovecot Studios will co-curate a landmark exhibition with the National Museums Scotland in March 2021 where Brennan’s iconoclastic work and extraordinary story will be the centre.
To bring together Brennan’s masterpieces from private and public collections, Dovecot is launching a campaign to raise £20,000 in 30 days. The 30-day fundraising campaign is a chance to discover Brennan’s incredible body of work and to support Dovecot.
Celia Joicey, Director of Dovecot Studios says, “Although these are difficult times for the arts sector, Dovecot is committed to supporting Scottish tapestry and shining a light on the incredible work and contribution of weaver and artist Archie Brennan. With the support of the public we can present this landmark exhibition to celebrate a master weaver and under-appreciated Scottish artist.”
Whilst some key works by Brennan exist in Scotland and the UK, there are seminal works in private collections further afield, from North America to Australia. The money raised through this fundraising campaign will bring these works together for the first time, giving an unprecedented insight into the life and work of Archie Brennan. A number of exclusive rewards will be available to donors for as little as £5, including a tote bag, an exclusive print by Scottish artist Callum Innes, a weaving kit with wool selection by artist Victoria Crowe, and a print by artist Duggie Fields.
The campaign starts on 23 June at 12pm on the Art Fund’s Art Happens platform, the only crowdfunding platform for museums and galleries. Please see Art Fund website to donate.
Art Happens campaign by Dovecot Studios launches on 23 June until 23 July 2020.
Tapestry Goes Pop! The Woven World of Archie Brennan opens 26 March to 26 June 2021 at Dovecot Studios. It is a Dovecot exhibition co-curated with the National Museums of Scotland.