“The item that the Spanish really admired as much as the gold and silver was the red dyestuff, cochineal, that was native to the region. … It was the contribution of the Americas to global art history.”

In This Episode
Juliana Fagua-Arias speaks with Elena Phipps about cochineal, luminescence, and the relationship between textiles, color, and culture.

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Download transcript here.
Elena Phipps, PhD in pre-Columbian art history and archaeology, Columbia University (1989), was formerly the senior textile conservator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MMA) 1977–2010. At the museum, apart from her conservation responsibilities, she worked on the design, development, and implementation of the Antonio Ratti Textile Center, a state-of-the-art facility for the preservation, storage, and study of the museum’s collection of 35,000 textiles, which opened in 1995. In addition, Phipps co-curated two major MMA textile exhibitions: The Interwoven Globe: Worldwide Textile Trade (2013) and The Colonial Andes: Tapestries and Silverwork 1430–1830 (2004), whose catalogue was awarded the College Art Association’s Alfred Barr Jr. Award and the Mitchell Prize. She has focused her professional work on the study of the history of textile materials and techniques in cultural contexts. Her publications include Cochineal Red: The Art History of a Color (MMA, 2010); Looking at Textiles: A Technical Terminology (Getty Publications, 2013); The Peruvian Four-Selvaged Cloth (Fowler Museum, 2013); and many articles on materiality and textiles, including her recent “Woven Brilliance: Approaching Color in Andean Textile Traditions” (Textile Museum Journal, 2020). Phipps was president of the Textile Society of America from 2011 until 2014, and since 2011, she has taught textile history, techniques, and cultures in the

Juliana Fagua-Arias
received her MA from Bard Graduate Center in 2021, where her research focused on the material culture of colonial Latin America and the transpacific trade. She is currently pursuing her PhD in the Department of History of Art and Visual Studies at Cornell University.