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The Arts Intel Report

A Cultural Compass
For the World Traveler
A Cultural Compass
For the World Traveler

Double Weave: Bourne and Allen's Modernist Textile

Wooden curtain material sample for the Royal Festival Hall competition, 1951.

Lodge Hill Ln, Ditchling, Hassocks BN6 8SP, United Kingdom

The textile designer Hilary Bourne had her own plaque on the Museum of Art + Craft, which she founded in Ditchling, where she grew up. But until now, Barbara Allen, Bourne’s partner in art and life, has rarely been mentioned. Even so, the couple worked together for decades, making textiles for London stores such as Liberty’s, Heals, and Fortnum & Mason. In 1951, they created the textile centerpiece for the Berlin Festival. And in 1959, they wove period fabric for the caftans and tunics worn in MGM’s 1959 film Ben-Hur, starring Charlton Heston. The two women were together for 40 years, but owing to the invisibility of gay couples at that time, their relationship was unsung and their work often went unattributed. Until now. This exhibition brings Bourne and Allen into the spotlight, together. —Elena Clavarino