Exhibition: Huicholes – A People Walking Towards the Light

Exhibition dates: 5 April – 4 September 2017

Huicholes – A People Walking Towards the Light showcases the art and lives of the Huicholes, an indigenous group from western Mexico whose history dates back 15,000 years. Featuring dazzling yarn paintings created using traditional techniques, the exhibition includes ceremonial objects, handmade textiles and photographs documenting a unique and threatened way of life.

This exhibition is on loan from Artes de México with the support of the Consulate General of Mexico and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, through the Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation.

For more information, visit the website of the Textile Museum of Canada, Toronto, Canada.

Exhibition: Barbara Brown

Exhibition dates: 17 March – December 2017

Barbara Brown was the golden girl of Heal’s Fabrics in the 1960s and early 1970s. Talent-spotted as a student, her designs for furnishing fabrics are some of the most striking and unusual ever produced in the twentieth century and won awards from the Council of Industrial Design. This is the first major solo exhibition of her work in the UK.

For more information, visit the website of the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, UK.

Exhibition: Kind Words Can Never Die

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Exhibition dates: 22 February – 25 June 2017

Kind Words Can Never Die presents an extraordinary collection of Victorian needlework mottos stitched by anonymous women and girls in the mid to late nineteenth century. Mass produced by American wholesale companies, standardised sheets of perforated cardboard were printed with messages such as biblical quotes, song titles and popular maxims of the time that reflected the cultural and religious milieu of the North American evangelical Protestant middle class: ‘Do Right and Fear Not’; ‘What is Home Without a Mother?’; ‘Kind Words Can Never Die’. Women ordered the mottos from mail order catalogues, stitched them using a simple satin stitch and hung them in the home in specially designed motto frames.

With the rise of industrial manufacturing, men worked outside the home in growing numbers, setting established home and family structures into flux. Women increasingly took control of domestic space as consumers and moral influencers. Their decisions of which mottos to stitch and hang on the walls declared which of society’s ethical, cultural and religious edicts would guide the aesthetic and moral tone of the home. As objects of material culture, the mottos attest to the work women did to cultivate carefully chosen personal and social values in their families.

This particular collection of mottos was built by Jane Webster (1919–2009) from the mid to late twentieth century at her home in the Caribou Harbour area of Pictou, Nova Scotia. Family photos of the interior of the home taken in the 1940s show a few mottos on the wall ­— just enough to spark a collector’s passion in Jane, who had recently started spending time at the house. Jane purchased the mottos from farm auctions and received them as gifts, eventually amassing 173 examples that represent the vast majority of available motto texts. In Jane’s possession, the mottos were relieved of their purpose as edifying agents and re-contextualised as curious objects displayed in the spirit of generosity, welcoming and wit.

For more information, visit the website of the Textile Museum of Canada, Toronto.

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: 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: Josef Franks – Patterns, Furniture, Painting

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Exhibition dates: 28 January – 7 May 2017

Explore the work of designer and artist Josef Frank (1885–1967) in the first-ever UK exhibition of his textiles. The Austrian-born architect moved to Sweden in 1933, where he developed his colourful brand of modernism, working with Estrid Ericson on furniture, glassware, lighting and interior design ideas. Together they redefined what is regarded as Swedish Modern. This exhibition in association with Millesgården, Stockholm highlights Frank’s vibrant fabric designs for Svenskt Tenn alongside a number of his previously unknown watercolours.

While this isn’t Asian, by any stretch of the imagination, I saw an exhibition of Josef Frank’s work in Vienna this time last year (possibly the very same one), and I can highly recommend it.

For more information, visit the website of the Fashion and Textile Museum, London.

Exhibition: Small-Great Objects – Anni and Josef Albers in the Americas

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Exhibition dates: 3 February – 18 June 2017

Small-Great Objects: Anni and Josef Albers in the Americas examines intersections between the art-making and art-collecting strategies of the Alberses, two of the most influential figures of twentieth-century modernism. Between 1935 and 1967, the couple made numerous trips to Latin America and the American Southwest and amassed a large collection of ancient artworks from these regions. The exhibition looks at these objects in depth and considers how Anni and Josef’s collection supported their aesthetic sensibilities and teaching practice. In addition to objects from the ancient Americas, the show gathers together dozens of works that the couple made, including textiles, paintings, works on paper and rarely studied photographs that Josef took at archaeological sites and museums. Demonstrating the Alberses’ deep and sustained engagement with ancient American art, an interest that was decades ahead of its time, Small-Great Objects explores a fascinating dimension of the couple’s creative vision.

For more information, visit the website of the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.

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.