University Museums

Title: Giniro-no-kigou (Silver Code)
Name: Tapestry Curtain
Date: 1976
Medium: Spun rayon, nylon, polyvinyl chloride film, and polyester film.
Country/Culture: Japanese
Dimensions: 420 x 96 in., 2800 lb. (1066.8 x 243.8 cm, 1270.1 kg)
Classification: Textiles and Apparel
Credit Line: Commissioned by J.W. (Bill) and Dorothy Fisher for Iowa State University’s C.Y. Stephens Auditorium. In the Art on Campus Collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Location: Iowa State University, C.Y. Stephens Auditorium, Front Lobby
Object Number: U2013.52
More Information
When the newly constructed C.Y. Stephens Auditorium opened in September 1969 with an unprecedented five-night concert series by the New York Philharmonic, the moment heralded a new era in the fine arts for Iowa State University, the state of Iowa, and indeed the Midwest. Iowans came out in black tie and taffeta to mark the auspicious opening of the majestic auditorium, which in 2004 earned the honor “Building of the Century” from the Iowa Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

C.Y. Stephens Auditorium had been conceived as the crown jewel of the Iowa State Center and a vital focal point for the arts at Iowa State, so it was fitting that the stage curtain be as reflective of this Midwestern cultural renaissance as the building itself. Iowa natives and Iowa State alumni J.W. (Bill) and Dorothy Fisher, lead donors for the construction of Fisher Theater, commissioned the Kawashima Textile Mills in Kyoto, Japan, to weave the 80-by-35-foot curtain on what was then the largest loom in the world.
Designed by artist and sculptor Ryokichi Mukai, the curtain – a true work of art – was named Giniro-no-kigou translated as Silver Code. Largely an expression of abstract symbolism, Silver Code expresses the sciences and technology at Iowa State.

After 45 years and more than 3,500 curtain calls, this magnificent work of art was in urgent need of conservation and repair. Work was completed in 2014, with textile conservators undertaking several life-saving measures. The project was led by textile conservation fellow Kate Greder, who devoted countless hours to cleaning and repairing the face of the curtain, a meticulous process completed by hand.

The construction of the Iowa State Center from 1966 to 1975, and especially that of C.Y. Stephens Auditorium, was a turning point for Iowa State University. President James Hilton’s vision was to transform Iowa State, both intellectually and physically, from its historical roots in agriculture and engineering to encompass the fine arts of human attainment as expressed in arts and education. This legacy is manifest in Silver Code. Iowa State is fortunate to have a tapestry of this magnitude.