Jørn Utzon, 1918-2008, won the international architectural competition for the Sydney Opera House in 1957. He worked on the building with Ove Arup and Partners as the civil engineers from 1958-1965, until a change of government in 1965 raised issues over the construction cost and schedule. Utzon resigned from the building programme in 1966 and it was completed by Australian government architects, and opened in 1973. While the design for the exterior of the structure was established, Utzon had to abandon his plans to decorate the interior of the building with tapestries and enamels by Le Corbusier. Utzon and Le Corbusier met in Paris in 1959 to discuss a collaboration, and a series of six enamels and a tapestry were commissioned. The tapestry, Les Dés Sont Jetés (The Dice Are Cast), was intended as a companion piece to Utzon’s tapestry Homage to Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, which hangs in the Utzon Room at the Opera House. The collaboration between Utzon and Corbusier is documented in letters written between 1958-60. On 31 March 1960 Jørn Utzon wrote to Le Corbusier: “Your paintings are every day a great inspiration to me here on our walls – I am looking very much forward to the Tapisserie”. Les Dés Sont Jetés was subsequently purchased for A$540,000 in 2015 and is now displayed in the western foyers of the Opera House.
In addition to the tapestry, a series of enamel panels were painted by Le Corbusier while he and Utzon collaborated on the interior of the Opera House. On the reverse of the enamel, Pentecôte, 1959, Le Corbusier describes in a diagram how four of the artworks could be hung at the Sydney Opera House. The enamels remained in the private collection of Jørn Utzon and his family in Denmark until emerging at auction with Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers, Copenhagen in the last two years.
- Le Corbusier. 20 heures, arrivée à Chandigarh, 1951-1959. Enamel on metal
- Le Corbusier. Untitled, 1954-1958. Signed verso L-C Chandigarh dec. 54 – 10. mai 58. Enamel on metal, 55 x 65 cm
- Le Corbusier. L’Iliade. Allons.Couchons-nous et goûtons le Plaisir d’amour, 1953-1959. Enamel on metal
- Le Corbusier. Pentecôte, 1959. Signed verso L-C 59. Enamel on metal, 55 x 65 cm
Le Corbusier. Four enamel paintings. Part of a series of six images intended for the interior decoration of the Sydney Opera House. Ex-private collection Jørn Utzon.
Le Corbusier. Pentecôte, 1959. Verso. Sketch indicating how the enamels should be displayed in the Sydney Opera House.
Photography: courtesy Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers, Copenhagen
Le Corbusier. Les Dés Sont Jetés (The Dice Are Cast), Tapestry commissioned by Jørn Utzon © Anna Kucera/Sydney Opera House
Jørn Utzon. Homage to CPE Bach. Sydney Opera House. Image: courtesy Australian Tapestry Workshop
A brief history of the construction of the Sydney Opera House: