WEEKEND LECTURE: Elena Phipps: Cochineal Red: The Art of Color

This program is generously sponsored by The Ethnic Arts Council of Los Angeles.

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From antiquity to the present day, color has been embedded with cultural meaning. Red — associated with blood, fire, fertility, and life force was extremely difficult to achieve and always highly prized by cultures around the world. This lecture, in conjunction with the exhibition The Red that Colored the World presents the origin of the brilliant red colorant from a humble insect, cochineal, that thrived in the ancient Americas and after the opening of global trade in the 16th century by the Spanish and Portuguese, became the most important source of red color in art and industry, throughout the world. Drawing on examples ranging from Precolumbian textiles, French tapestries and Chinese hangings, as well as paintings by Rembrandt and Van Gogh  the lecture presents research that documents the use of this red-colored treasure throughout the world and helped to form the storyline for the exhibition.

Elena Phipps, PhD in Precolumbian art history and archaeology, was a conservator and curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for over 34 years. She co-curated several groundbreaking exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art including Tapestries and Silverwork from the Colonial Andes, 1520-1820 (1998) and The Interwoven Globe: World-wide textile trade, 1500-1800 (2013). Dr. Phipps has written widely on the subject of textiles and color, including Cochineal Red: The Art History of a Color (Metropolitan Museum of Art and Yale University Press, 2010). She currently teaches textile history at UCLA in the Department of World Arts and Culture.


This exhibition was organized by the Museum of International Folk Art, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA, and made possible by the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities and circulating through Guest Curator Traveling Exhibitions.

The National Endowment for the Humanities: Celebrating 50 Years of Excellence. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed on this webpage do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Location: Kershaw Auditorium 

Price: Bowers Members $9 | General $12 or $7 with paid admission | Students $5 with ID


TICKETS: Online or onsite;

Questions? E-mail programs@bowers.org or call 714.567.3677

Proceeds benefit Bowers Museum Education Programs. Tickets are non-refundable.

Image Credit: Detail, St.Michael and the Bull, Sebastian Lopez de Arteaga, Oil on canvas, Denver Art Museum, 1994.27.

Event details

November 22, 2015 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm

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