Jan Yoors–Chronicler of the Romany & Tapestry Artist

Jan YoorsSaw this amazing wall-size tapestry at the Robert Miler Gallery’s “Suddenness + Certainty” exhibit, curated by artist Robert Greene. It’s by the late Jan Yoors (1922-77), a Belgian artist and author by whom I once nearly published a book. It was to have been his seminal study Gypsies, for the Kodansha Globe trade paperback series which I edited in the 1990s. As I recall, rights to publish a new edition of the book ended up with another publisher. According to a Wikipedia article about Yoors, at age 12 he ran away with a group off gypsies, living with them for some months until he went back to his parents. He returned to the gypsies periodically over the years. His book, originally published in 1969, was a rare study of the Romany, told from inside the group structure, with their customs and folkways portrayed with rare intimacy and authenticity.

I hadn’t thought of Yoors for years, until I saw his name on the tapestry last Thursday night. It’s a striking work–strong, graphic, and tactile, with a surprising cream-colored shape in the center of  the piece. The price on the list of works in the exhibit was $85,000. I took some pictures of it and asked at the desk if they knew whether it was the author, Jan Yoors, but they weren’t sure. I checked later and confirmed that he was both an author and artist. How nice to be reminded of his book, which I had enjoyed so much, and found so interesting almost twenty years ago. It was a fun night at the Robert Miller Gallery as Kyle and I also got to see paintings by our friend Stephen Lack, who introduced me to his friend Simon Hancock, of HarperCollins.

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