Exhibition: Colors of the Oasis – Central Asian Ikats

Exhibition dates: 12 March – 4 June 2017

Colors of the Oasis: Central Asian Ikats showcases nearly fifty ikat robes and panels from the renowned Murad Megalli Collection of the Textile Museum in Washington DC.

These bold garments were mainstays of cosmopolitan oasis culture in the nineteenth century, worn by inhabitants of different classes and religions throughout crowded marketplaces, private homes, centres of worship and ceremonial places. The ikat textiles on display – including robes for men and women, dresses, trousers and hangings – feature eye-catching designs in dazzling colours.

Supplementing the ikats are historical photographs and didactic materials about the tradition of their creation. The textiles were originally produced in the 1800s in weaving centres across Uzbekistan, including Bukhara, Samarkand and the Fergana Valley.

Additionally, special installations of ikat textiles from India, Japan and Central Asia – on view in the museum’s permanent galleries in the Law Building – demonstrate ikat traditions from around the globe.

For more information, visit the website of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, USA.

Exhibition: Joli! A Fancy Masquerade from Sierra Leone

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Exhibition dates: 11 December 2016 – 16 July 2017

This exhibition features a rare group of eleven headdresses worn in Joli masquerades held in Sierra Leone’s capital city of Freetown in the 1970s. Joli headdresses are among the most unusual, complex and elaborate masquerade configurations we know from sub-Saharan Africa, and they reflect the blending of cultural influences and peoples in the dynamic port city of Freetown. The headdresses in this exhibition were performed to mark the end of the Muslim month of Ramadan. Crafted by Joli Society members, each headdress started with an elaborate armature made of bent and twisted wire, which was padded with polyurethane foam and then covered with textiles, brocades, velvets, netting, Christmas tinsel, fringe, lace and mirrors to create a ‘fancy’ superstructure in a recognisable shape, such as a mosque, an elephant, a biplane or the water spirit Mami Wata. Lastly, a painted wooden face mask or several face masks were attached to the structure, which was worn on top of the head of the fully dressed performer. The exhibition explains the history of Joli and the various threads of influence that led to this fantastic urban masquerade popular for only a brief period in the 1970s.

For more information, visit the website of the Fowler Museum, Los Angeles, USA.

Exhibition: Sanquhar Gloves – A Living Scottish Tradition

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Exhibition dates: this is an online exhibition, available to view indefinitely

The Center for Knit and Crochet (CKC), based in Wisconsin, USA, have produced a great online exhibition exploring the Scottish tradition of Sanquhar gloves.

Sanquhar gloves are a distinctive fashion accessory from the small Scottish town of the same name. Sanquhar, Scotland is located about 60 miles southwest of Edinburgh and 50 miles southeast of Glasgow. The gloves historically associated with this community are hand-knitted in fine wool yarns in two colours that emphasise the delicacy and precision of the small all-over patterns preferred by the knitters of Sanquhar.

Structure of the exhibition:

  • We begin with a definition of Sanquhar gloves, including their patterns, construction and materials, showing both historical and contemporary examples.
  • Next we explore the attraction of this form of knitting and discuss resources.
  • Finally we admire contemporary adaptations of Sanquhar patterns in gloves, mittens and other garments.
  • The exhibition concludes with a bibliography and reference materials.

To view the exhibition, visit the website of the Center for Knit and Crochet.

Exhibition: Kimonos – Au bonheur des dames

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Exhibition dates: 22 February – 22 May 2017

Pieces from the collection of the famous Matsuzakaya fashion house are currently being exhibited for the first time outside of Japan, at the Musée Guimet in Paris. When shown together, they offer an opportunity to witness the evolution of Japanese fashion from the Edo period (1603–1868) up to the present day. The exhibition follows the development of the kimono and its accompanying accessories, in order to illustrate the position of women and the way in which women’s bodies are viewed in Japanese society, but also the ways in which these have been reinterpreted in contemporary Japanese and French fashion.

Originally worn as underclothing before being adopted by samurai and courtiers, and eventually becoming everyday wear for all social classes, the kimono, known as ‘kosode’ in the nineteenth century, is the signature item of Japanese dress. It wasn’t until the middle of the nineteenth century that kimonos were worn as indoor dress by elegant women in France, at a time when a taste for ‘japonism’ was in vogue with fashion designers such as Paul Poiret (1879–1944) or Madeleine Vionnet (1876–1975), whose diaphonous creations with flowing sleeves resemble the loose construction of kimonos.

For more information, visit the website of the Musée Guimet, Paris.

Exhibition: Renaissance Fashion in Paper

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Exhibition dates: 15 September 2016 – 19 March 2017

The Medici family outside the frame

Impressive costumes, opulent creations, extravagant forms and strong colours. Lace, frills, trains, rosettes and flounces. A Renaissance collection – inspired by the most powerful Renaissance family, the Medicis. This collection has been entirely made of paper by the Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave. Now her most extravagant collection is being presented in the Royal Armoury Museum, Stockholm, in the Royal Palace, for the first time in Scandinavia.

The paper costumes give an impression of the splendour of the Florentine Renaissance court. Because the original outfits have not survived to the present day, Isabelle de Borchgrave has based her pieces on portraits and other works of art. She creates what we don’t see in the portraits: the lower parts of the dresses and shoes, the backs of the dresses and the fantastic hairstyles.

Twenty-eight life-sized hand-painted paper costumes on dummies convey the opulence of the Florentine Renaissance court. They also give an insight into what the Swedish Renaissance court may have looked like during the Vasa period. Isabelle de Borchgrave’s magnificent creations bring a royal world to life in paper.

With inspiration from historical objects and paintings, Isabelle de Borchgrave has created accessories in paper, specially produced for the Royal Armoury’s exhibition. Isabelle de Borchgrave is an artist and sculptor. She is best known for her colourful paintings and advanced paper installations – life-sized costumes. She is represented in a number of museums across the world. Isabelle de Borchgrave has also worked as a designer, creating dress details for fashion designer John Galliano when he was head designer for the Christian Dior fashion house.

For more information, visit the website of the Royal Armoury Museum, Stockholm, Sweden.

Exhibition: Textiles from Sumba, Indonesia

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Exhibition dates: this is an online exhibition, available to view indefinitely

A special exhibition of textiles from Sumba, curated by HALI contributing editor Thomas Murray and drawing from his extensive collection, is available to view online. It begins:

“The island of Sumba may be found on a map between Bali and New Guinea but it exists in its own world, far apart from those antipodal lands. Divided east and west by language and environmental conditions, the west tends to be more wet and green and the east, dryer.

Sumbanese religion, Marapu, recognizes that a dualistic symmetry exists in the universe, that of male and female, hot and cold, sun and moon, cloth and metal. Here there are good and bad spirits hovering nearby, needing ritual offerings on a regular basis. The ancestors must most especially be cared for.

Sumba is thus home to one of the strongest animistic tribal societies found in Indonesia, perhaps most famous for its notorious custom of cutting off the heads of enemies and placing them on the branches of a designated tree, the pohon andung, at the entrance of the village. Such trees represented the Tree of Life as well as serving to remind viewers of the power of the raja.

Sumba has a rich megalithic heritage, featuring giant stone tomb memorials. Sumbanese houses, particularly the customary houses found in royal villages, known as rumah adat, are understood to be cosmic diagrams, with the underworld of the animals below, the mid-level for human habitation and the high roof being the realm of the ancestors. This is also the place where the pusaka heirloom treasures are stored, to be closer to the departed souls; precious gold jewelry and fabulously rare and beautiful textiles were kept just under the peak of the roof on both sides of the island. But the art of weaving and dyeing achieved greatest heights in the east, with ikat textiles adding bright colors to the dusty brown background of this, the dry side of the island.”

To view the exhibition, visit Thomas Murray’s website.

Exhibition: From the Lands of Asia – The Sam and Myrna Myers Collection

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Exhibition dates: 17 November 2016 – 19 March 2017

Pointe-à-Callière Museum in Montreal, Canada, is currently showing the world premiere of From the Lands of Asia: The Sam and Myrna Myers Collection. This exhibition features some 400 pieces selected from among the finest objects in a collection of 5,000 works of Asian art amassed over fifty years by an American couple living in Paris. This collection – one of the world’s largest privately owned collections of Chinese jade and Asian objects – includes stones, icons, textiles, ceramics, ivories, porcelains and clothing.

Sam and Myrna Myers acquired their first pieces in Switzerland in 1966 – objects mainly from the classical age (Egypt, Greece, Rome and the Orient). At the time, the couple was being advised by erudite and intellectual gallery owner Dr Rosembaum, who rubbed shoulders with such renowned writers as Hermann Hesse and Thomas Mann, and pioneers of surrealism like Hans Arp and Max Ernst.

Having taken this first step, the Myers then sought to enrich their collection. Everywhere they went, they frequented antique dealers, visited museums and went to auctions. From that point on, the collectors concentrated on East Asian pieces, creating unique and coherent ensembles, particularly in jade, silk, porcelain and other refined materials – some of which are described as having magical properties.

Among other elements of the exhibition, visitors are wrapped up in the world of textiles. Costumes from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries in the Myers Collection prove to be an inexhaustible source of knowledge about the customs and know-how of many societies.

In China, silk fabrics reflected the wearers’ wealth and social status. At court, for example, the colour and decorations of dress changed from dynasty to dynasty. In this colourful, silk-filled space, we are introduced to key characters, including the scholar, whom we learn about through a robe – a rare complete example of a garment of this type – and through accessories such as inkstones, which these experts in writing would retain for their entire lives. From Japan, we discover the kimono, considered by some to be the most elegant garment in the world. We also cross paths with the samurai and their clothing, adapted for wearing armour. Also in Japan, we learn about the Noh theatre, with its actors dressed in sumptuous silk costumes. And we imagine the lives of Uzbek merchants and riders crisscrossing the steppes, clad in flamboyantly colourful garments that take our breath away. A brilliant finale to this journey to East Asia through the works of the Sam and Myrna Myers Collection.

If you can’t make it to Canada to see this exhibition in person, there is a catalogue available.

For more information, visit the website of the Pointe-à-Callière Museum, Montreal, Canada.

Exhibition: Fiji – Art and Life in the Pacific

 

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Exhibition dates: 15 October 2016 – 12 February 2017

Still open for another two weeks!

The largest and most comprehensive exhibition about Fiji ever assembled, it will take the visitor on a journey through the art and cultural history of Fiji since the late eighteenth century.

Over 270 works of art, including European paintings and historic photographs, are being loaned by exhibition partner the Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology at Cambridge, and by the Fiji Museum, the British Museum, the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford and museums in Aberdeen, Birmingham, Exeter, London, Maidstone, as well as Dresden and Leipzig in Germany.

This exhibition results from a three-year Arts & Humanities Research Council-funded project which examined the extensive but little-known Fijian collections in the UK and overseas, and uncovered some significant treasures.

Paintings, drawings and photographs of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries provide a context for the artworks. These include exquisite watercolours by the intrepid Victorian travel writer and artist Constance Gordon Cumming, and by naval artist James Glen Wilson, who was in Fiji in the 1850s.

For more information, visit the website of the Sainsbury Centre, Norwich.

Event: Conference: Cloth and Costume in Ethnographic Museums – New Directions in Research, Care and Interpretation 

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Event dates: 6–7 April 2017

The Museum Ethnographers Group Annual Conference 2017 will address cloth and costume. Cloth is a unique technology: light and flexible but presenting large surfaces and capable of taking innumerable colours and structures, it covers and divides things, reveals and connects them. Clothing and costuming the body, to protect and conceal it, to make it beautiful or terrifying, to transform or display its many identities – bring persons and statuses into the performed social world. Since remote prehistory, cloth and costume have both created demands and opportunities for humans to devise many of our most ingenious, delicate and technically complicated artefacts.

From Inuit gut parka to ancient Nazca textiles, traditional West African grand boubou costume to Masai beadwork, Scottish plaid to Italian tapestries, Persian rugs to Indian sari to Balinese dance masks, Bismarck Archipelago masquerade puppets to Samoan barkcloth lavalava; the cloth and costume in our World Cultures collections are immensely rich, diverse and culturally significant. In recent centuries, cloth and costume have also become important material sites for the contestation of identities and moralities, economic globalisation and colonial acculturation. From the worldwide trade in European mill-woven chemically dyed and printed textiles, to the battles of Christian missionaries with imagined states of immoral native undress, to the recent conflict between the French government and wearers of the hijab and burkini, the globalisation of Western dress convention has powerfully impacted the world’s other material cultures.

How, then, do we weave together these many strands in the ethnographic museum? What is the current state of research into world cultures’ cloth and costume collections, and what new approaches are we developing to understand them better? How are historical textiles and costume being curated in the world’s museums, and reimagined in the world’s contemporary art scenes? Are we engaging with contemporary world fashion or trapped in perpetuating stereotypical imaginings of an ‘authentically dressed’ ethnographic past that may never have existed? How can we manage these challenging objects better? What are the particular conservation problems of ethnographic textiles and costume, and how can we better care for them in the future? How are we exhibiting cloth and clothing in 2017? Are we capitalising on costume’s universal appeal in our display and education programmes?

Titles and 200-word abstracts for papers addressing these and other questions are warmly welcomed. Two standard formats are offered to presenters: a full conference paper to last twenty minutes, and a shorter ten-minute presentation on work in progress. Please email your proposed title, abstract and format choice (or any queries) to andrew.mills@glasgow.ac.uk by Monday 6 February.

Booking for the 2017 conference is now open. Tickets can be purchased through the Eventbrite site.

For more information, visit the website of the Museum Ethnographers Group.

Event: London Antique Rug and Textile Art fair (LARTA) 2017

Event dates 24–29 January 2017

The London Antique Rug & Textile Art fair (LARTA) was launched in 2011 and is the only specialist fair dedicated to the appreciation of antique rug and textile art. Our event brings together quality decorative pieces and interesting collectors’ items presented by some of the UK and Europe’s most dynamic and knowledgeable dealers.

Our aim is to promote this vibrant art form to a wide audience. The scope of our interest is broad, and includes weavings from the Far East, Central Asia, Persia, India, Turkey, the Caucasus as well as from Europe and Africa, and from all periods up to the early twentieth century in Europe. Clients include collectors, interior decorators and designers, private buyers and international dealers.

The quality of the exhibitors at LARTA guarantees an event of high artistic significance and cultural merit. Many of our dealers exhibit regularly at important international antiques fairs and specialist symposiums. Several have written expert articles and books, travelled extensively to learn about the material culture and traditions of the weaving regions, and celebrated this extensive subject through exhibitions in their galleries.

When you visit LARTA, you will be able to choose from thousands of pieces at all price levels in a range of materials, techniques, colours and styles. There will be eye-catching showstoppers as well as affordable furnishing pieces and collectible rarities. In 2017, LARTA has broadened its offering to include exceptional twentieth-century carpets by modernist and art deco designers, and a very select choice of contemporary designer rugs. In addition, there will be a select presentation of Islamic art and objects. Your visit to LARTA will be a seductive feast of colour, form and texture, a truly memorable experience!

For more information, visit the LARTA website.