In 2019, for one day only, members of the public were able to take part in free 35-minute guided viewings of these original house curtains. This event will be repeated again in 2020 and 2021.
The tapestries were commissioned for the 1973 opening of the Opera House by architect Peter Hall, and are among Australia’s most significant large-scale artworks. They occupy an important place in the Opera House’s history.
From the opening of the Opera House in 1973, the tapestries operated as house curtains in the two theatres until the mid-1980s when they were decommissioned as a result of damage from intensive use. The Opera House, with support from the Coburn family and International Conservation Services, has carried out extensive conservation and restoration works to preserve the tapestries and ready them for public display.
The curtains showcase an important aspect of architect Jørn Utzon’s original vision for the building, one shared by subsequent architect Peter Hall, in their use of bold colour to heighten audience members’ sense of anticipation and exhilaration as they took their seats.
Sydney Opera House CEO Louise Herron AM has said: “As custodians of these precious artworks, we have a significant responsibility to both preserve and display them whenever we can. It is wonderful to be able to invite the community to see the tapestries in their original locations on 22 May 2019 and to celebrate the important contribution of both John Coburn and Peter Hall to the Opera House’s history.”
The special viewings are a component of the Opera House’s ongoing heritage interpretation program, which includes a range of activities to engage the community in the building’s heritage. As part of this work, the Opera House is committed to exploring options for longer-term hanging, yearly exhibitions and digital content.
The Australian Government has kindly provided funding support for the exhibition through its Protecting National Historic Sites Program.