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: 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.

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.

Exhibition: Layers of Influence – Unfolding Cloth across Cultures

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Exhibition dates: 17 November 2016 – 9 April 2017

From birth to death, humans are wrapped in cloth worn for survival, but more importantly, wear clothing as an external expression of their spiritual belief system, social status and political identity. This stunning exhibition will explore clothing’s inherent evidence of human ingenuity, creativity and skill, drawing from the Vancouver Museum of Anthropology’s textile collection — the largest collection in western Canada — to display a global range of materials, production techniques and adornments across different cultures and time frames.

Curated by Dr Jennifer Kramer (Vancouver Museum of Anthropology Curator, Pacific Northwest), Layers of Influence will entrance visitors with large swaths of intricate textiles often worn to enhance the wearer’s prestige, power and spiritual connection, including Japanese kimonos, Indian saris, Indonesian sarongs, West African adinkra, adire and kente cloth, South Pacific barkcloth, Chinese Qing dynasty robes, Indigenous Northwest coast blankets, Maori feather cloaks and more.

A sumptuous feast for the eyes, the exhibition is an aesthetic and affective examination of humanity’s multifaceted and complex history with cloth and its ability to amplify the social, political and spiritual influence of the wearer as a functional expression of self-identity.

For more information, visit the website of the Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver, Canada.

Exhibition: Bingata! Only in Okinawa

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Exhibition dates: 5 November 2016 – 30 January 2017

Okinawa, Japan’s southernmost prefecture, was an independent kingdom until 1879, with its own language, culture, and distinctive textile traditions. This special showing at the Textile Museum, Washington DC, of textile treasures from Okinawan museum collections features brightly coloured bingata – traditional resist-dyed fabrics – and contemporary works by Okinawan artists and fashion designers.

For more information, visit the website of the Textile Museum, Washington DC, USA.

Exhibition: Kimonos from the Okura collection

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Exhibition dates: 21 October – 13 December 2016

Discover the colourful tales from ‘No’, one of Japan’s oldest forms theatrical forms, this autumn. Last month, the Rijksmuseum unveiled seven magnificent No theatre kimonos that exemplify the changes in No through the centuries.

No theatre originated in the fourteenth century and is a stylised Japanese dramatic form in which song, music and dance come together. The highlight of the presentation is a magnificent eighteenth-century kimono with embroidered moonflower tendrils on saffron-coloured woven silk damask.

The seven kimonos from the Okura Collection provide a representative overview of No theatre costumes. They give an impression of the colourful atmosphere that must have existed during No performances in the past. The leading man who slowly made his entrance, looming up in the half-darkness of the bridge to the main stage, with an abundance of fabrics decorated with gold, silver and contrasting colours glittering in the subdued light.

That atmosphere was also created by the masks that the actors wore during their performance. The masks conveyed the personality of their character. A number of these masks are also on display, as well as prints that show how the colourful kimonos were worn, often layered over each other.

For more information, visit the website of the Rijksmuseum, Netherlands.

Event: My Dream of Heritage – Chinese Traditional Handicrafts Design Exhibition

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Event date: 24–26 November 2016 (see times below)

The Oxford Chinese Innovation Club are delighted to invite twenty-six craftsmen – heirs of China’s state-level intangible cultural heritage – to show their works this weekend at Hertford College, Oxford. More than ten categories of Chinese traditional handicrafts will be exhibited, including lacquerware, cloisonné, wood carving, batik and many others. Aimed at bringing the Chinese dream of cultural heritage to an international audience, this exhibition will be an excellent opportunity to get a taste of traditional Chinese art and sense the spirit of Chinese craftspeople.

At our exhibition, you will be able to:

  • Watch live demonstrations of handicrafts being made by top Chinese craftspeople
  • Make traditional handicrafts yourself, such as batik, kites, dough figurines and rabbit gods
  • Watch live performances of some of the most typical forms of traditional Chinese performance, such as Guqin, Kun opera, Peking opera, and marionette
  • Have a chance to purchase your favourite handcrafts, which combine the finest traditional handicrafts with contemporary design

Come and join us to discover the beauty of traditional Chinese art and be ready to get inspired!

Opening ceremony: 56 pm, Friday 25 November (refreshments will be served before the ceremony)

Exhibition (drop by any time to visit the exhibition):

2–4 pm Thursday 24 November

2–9 pm Friday 25 and Saturday 26 November

For more information, visit this event’s Eventbrite page.

Event: Talismanic Textiles from the Islamic World – A Talk by Dr Francesca Leoni

Event date: Friday 9 December 2016, 2.30 pm 

Dr Francesca Leoni is the Yousef Jameel Curator of Islamic Art and a Research Associate at the Khalili Research Centre, University of Oxford. She is the curator of the exhibition Power and Protection, Islamic Art and the Supernatural currently on display at the Ashmolean (showing until 15 January 2017). In her talk for the OATG, Dr Leoni will focus on the talismanic textiles included in the exhibition.

Location: Ashmolean Museum Education Centre, Oxford.

Admission is free for members, £3 for non-members. Registration is essential.

For more information, and to book your place at this event, please RSVP on the Eventbrite page, or contact the OATG events organisers (oatg.events@gmail.com).

The exhibition Power and Protection can be visited afterwards until 5 pm. Find more information on the exhibition here.

Event: Bingata! Only in Okinawa: Textiles and Traditions of the Ryukyu Kingdom

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Event date: Saturday 5 November 2016, 9am – 5pm

The Textile Museum, Washington DC, USA – 2016 Fall Symposium

Known as the Ryukyu Kingdom until 1879, Okinawa has a rich tradition of textile production and design, including the unique resist-dye method known as bingata. Inspired by the exhibition Bingata! Only in Okinawa, the 2016 fall symposium will feature five distinguished scholars from Okinawa – folklorists, curators and historians of textiles and theatre – who will provide a broader context for Okinawa’s celebrated textile art.

Online registration for the 2016 fall symposium is now open.
Rates: $40/museum members; $50/public.

For more information, visit the website of the Textile Museum, Washington DC, USA.