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Sheila Hicks: Fifty Years

1 October 2011 - 29 January 2012

Mint Museum of Craft + Design



Photo: Massimo Vignelli Associates


"Textiles had been relegated to a secondary role in our society, to a material that was either functional or decorative.  I wanted to give it another status and show what an artist can do with these incredible materials."

-Sheila Hicks in a 2004 interview from Archives of American Art


Sheila Hicks: 50 Years is the first museum retrospective devoted to this pioneering figure.  Sheila Hicks is an artist who builds with color and thinks with line.  From her earliest work of the late 1950s to the present, she crossed the boundaries of painting, sculpture, design, drawing, and woven form, and has become a critical force in redefining the domains of contemporary art-making.  While challenging the relation of fine arts to commercial arts and studio practice to site-specific commissions, Hicks has, above all, re-imagined the profound, vital relation of artist to artisan.


The exhibit displays the artist's conceptual, procedural, and material concerns via five distinct, though intimately related, fields of inquiry: bas-reliefs and sculptures; small weavings and drawings; site commissions for public spaces; industrial textiles; and process works make of recuperated textiles, clothing, and other found objects.


Born in Hastings, Nebraska, Ms. Hicks received her Bachelor's (1957) and Master's in Fine Arts (1959) degrees from Yale.  Her work is influenced by the Bauhaus tradition of her painting instructor, Josef Albers, and her exposure to and study of pre-Columbian textiles.  She currently resides in Paris, France and has worked on projects spanning from Japan to South Africa to the United States.



Early Education and Travel 1937-1960


Sheila Hicks. 


Zapallar, 1957-58


9 1/4" x 4 3/4"

Private collection

Photograph by: Bastiaan van   den Berg





Early Career 1960-1974

  • Moved to Mexico in 1960 to teach basic design and color in the architecture department at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma.
  • Exhibited two and three dimensional works in wool at Galeria Antonio Souza, Mexico City in 1961 at her first solo gallery show. 
  • The Museum of Modern Art, New York, acquires her work Blue Letter (1959), the first of her works to enter a museum collection in 1960. 
  • Exhibited in group shows, among them at the Museum of Modern Art (New Acquisitions, 1960), the Museum of American Craft (Woven Forms, 1963), and Milan Triennial (1963). 
  • Exhibited at Knoll Associates showrooms in Mexico City and Chicago in 1963. 
  • First solo exhibition in an American museum at Art Institute of Chicago and first solo gallery exhibition in the United States at La Pina Gallery, La Jolla, California in 1963. 
  • Exhibited in group show at the Kunstgewebemuseum in Zurich. 
  • Hired by Knoll Associates in 1964 to develop textile designs and act as a consultant on color and materials. 
  • Moved to Paris
  • Designed for the carpet mill Vorwerk-Arterior in Wuppertal, Germany. 
  • Completed first public commission for CBS building on 52nd Street in New York City in 1964. 
  • Exhibited in London and Oldenburg, Germany in 1965.
  • Opened studio in Dauphine, Paris and created works for the Ford Foundation and Georg Jensen Center for Advanced Design in New York, Air France, TWA Terminal at JFK airport in New York, Rochester Institute of Technology, and, in Paris, the Banque Rothschild, Francis Bouygues, IBM, Kodak, and Fiat Towers.
  • Consultant to Moroccan government for design of hand-knotted carpets. 
  • Exhibited in Paris, Helsinki, Stockholm, London, Prague, Amerstdam, Rabat, Dakar, Tunis, Belgrade, Skopje, Bucarest, Lausanne, New York, Madrid, Barcelona, Munich, Marseille, Toulouse, Bourdeaux, and Los Angeles. 
  • Her works are included in the exhibition Objects: U.S.A.- The Johnson Collection of Contemporary Crafts (1969), which traveled in the United States through 1971, and internationally through 1974, and in the groundbreaking exhibitions Wall Hangings, Museum of Modern Art, New York (1969), and Perspectief in TextielStedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Holland.
  • Invited by Pierre Pauli to participate for the first time in 3`eme Biennale Internationale del la Tapisserie de Lausanne in 1967. Also exhibits in 4`eme Biennale (1969), 5`eme Biennale (1971), 6`eme Biennale (1973), 7`eme Biennale (1975), 8`eme Biennale (1977), and 16`eme Biennale (1995). 
  • Hicks and Niki de Saint-phalle are the only women whose works are included in the large survey exhibition Douze ans d'art contemporain en France at the Grand Palais, Paris in 1972. 
  • First museum retrospective, at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam in 1974. 
  • Opened an additional studio, Atelier Bourdonnais, near Les Halles, Paris to create works for MGIC Investment Corporation commission in Milwaukee. 
  • Exhibited monumental hand-knotted carpets as wall hangings in solo show at Galerie Bab Rouah, Rabat, Morocco in 1971 and later exhibits one on the floor at the Galerie Suzy Langlois, Paris (1974-1975).                      



Sheila Hicks. American, 1934-

Badgara, 1969


Fabric created for Commonwealth Trust Ltd.

American Fabrics Issue 84, Fall 1969     



Sheila Hicks. American, 1934-

Study for Fugue, Rothschild Bank Headquarters, Paris, 1969

linen, cotton

15 3/4 x 23 5/8 inches

Private collection

Photograph by:

Bastiaan van den


  Sheila Hicks. American, 1934- 

La Clef, 1988

rubber bands, metal key

9 1/2 x 6 inches

Private collection

Photograph by: Bastiaan van den Berg                      





  •  Named Fellow of the Kunst Akademie, The Hague, Holland in 1975. 
  • Awarded Gold Medal, American Institute of Architects, 1975. 
  • Participated in Artiste/Artisane? at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs, Paris in 1977. 
  • Collaborated with film director Stanley Kubrick and set designer Jan Schlubach for the film The Shining in 1977. She was assigned to scout and acquire woven blankets and carpets in Paris to be hung over the balcony in the ski lodge where the film was shot. She assembled 40 or 50 and added to them from her atelier stock and personal work.
  • Relocated her studio to cour de Rohan, Paris, where she continues to work today (named "Pas de Mule" in 2006). 
  • Created installations using readymade items, including newspapers and clothing lent by local hospitals in Sheila Hicks: Vikt och Volymer (Tons and Masses), Lunds Konsthall, Lund, Sweden in 1978. 
  • Served as publisher and editor of American Fabrics and Fashion (AFF) from 1980-1983. 
  • Named American Craft Council Fellow in 1983. 
  • Created large artworks for King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (1983-1986) and Kellogg's in Michigan (1986-1988). 
  • Exhibited in Tokyo, Kyoto, Brussels, Oslo, Lisbon, Montreal, Jerusalem, New York, and San Francisco.
  • Awarded Medal of Fine Arts, French Academy of Architecture in 1985.     



  • Exhibited in Seoul, Tokyo, Kiryu (Japan), New York, Paris, Providence (Rhode Island), Trelaze (France), and Nebraska.                                                  
  • Decorated as Officier des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government in 1993.
  • Consulted at Bridgestone Corporation, Tochigi, Japan, to develop applications for a new stainless steel fiber in 1996.
  • Awarded Gold Medal from the American Crafts Council in 1997.
  • Participated in Structure and Surface: Contemporary Japanese Textiles, Museum of Modern Art, New York, and Saint Louis Art Museum in 1999.
  • Completed commission, The Four Seasons of Fuji for the Fuji City Cultural Center in Japan in 1999, a bas-relief of five tons of linen thread in ninety colors, 338 feet long, and spanning entrances to three concert halls and theaters.
  • Led a team with UNESCO to establish a design center in Cape Town, South Africa, MADESA (Manufacturing and Design Academy of South Africa). 
  • Adviser to Proventus/Art and Technology Company for Kinnesand textiles and Snowcrash design, Sweden in 2000.
  • Created large bas-reliefs in linen for cultural sites in Tokyo, Nagano, Kawasaki, and Hiroshima, Japan; and in the United States for the Rivington AIDS Care Center, New York, the Federal Courthouse, New York, and Target Headquarters, Minneapolis in 2003.
  • Retrospective of Hick's small woven and wrought works, Sheila Hicks: Weaving as Metaphor at Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture in New York in 2006. The exhibit was accompanied by an award-winning catalog designed by Irma Boom.   






Sheila Hicks. American, 1934-

Wrapped and Coiled Traveler, 2009

bamboo, cotton, wool, silk

8 7/8 x 5 1/4 inches

Private collection. Courtesy of Cristina Grajales Gallery

Photograph by: Bastiaan van den Berg



Selected Titles in The Mint Museum Library 




Created by Kelley Grogan and Danielle Mathieson, Mint Museum Library volunteers