In 1967, Nebraska-born, Paris-based fiber artist Sheila Hicks designed and fabricated two linen-and-silk wall panels for the Ford Foundation headquarters in New York City. Hicks worked in collaboration with Warren Platner, who had been hired to gussy up the interiors of the 12-story modernist landmark by Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates. Hicks's two giant wall panels, which comprise orderly rows of simplified rosettes threaded around metal discs, were heavily damaged by a wayward attempt at fire retardation in the 1980s. The one in the conference room was left unbuffered against the rolling Eames executive chairs, while the panel hung in the neighborhing auditorium had to contend with additional cigarette smoke damage. The Foundation's current president, Darren Walker, who was appointed in 2013, recognized the importance of replacing the fabric murals if restoration wasn't on the menu, so he engaged Hicks, who took on the commission with no artist's fee attached.
The reprisal of the Ford Foundation pieces—which were the first in a long series of corporate art-and-architecture collaborations for Hicks—comes at an appropriate time. Her reputation has experienced a revival in 2014, between several other large-scale public commissions (including a yearlong exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris) and a renewal of popular interest in weaving as an art form.
Watch a video on the architectural background of the Ford Foundation, starring Kevin Roche, and see the foundation's video interview with Sheila Hicks right here on Dwell.com.