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: 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: Embroidered Visions – Photographs of Central Asia and the Middle East by Sheila Paine

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Exhibition dates: 1 November 2016 – 30 April 2017

This exhibition presents a selection of photographs taken by textile expert Sheila Paine during her travels in Central Asia and the Middle East in the late 1980s and through the 1990s. The images have been chosen both to demonstrate the extent of Paine’s travelling, which has culminated in books on embroidery and other subjects, and to reveal her eye for colours and textures also evident elsewhere in her research. Photographs of Central Asia were taken in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and the trading city of Kashgar in western China. Scenes from the Middle East include Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Turkey and, in particular, Yemen. A video screen also shows highlights of a travel documentary presented by Sheila Paine in Yemen, originally broadcast in 1996.

The photographs have been taken from assorted vantage points, sometimes from the top of a bus while travelling between towns, at other times as more intimate portraits of people encountered. Clothing depicted ranges from plain felted cloaks to elaborately embroidered Turkmen tunics. Other photographs show the material processes behind different types of textile, from spinning wool and winding silver thread, to the manufacture of fur hats and pompom horse-trappings.

The social significance of embroidery has been central to Sheila Paine’s research. This has included seeking out and photographing makers, tracking how textiles and designs migrate across distances, and understanding the meaning, especially protective amuletic functions, applied to many of the motifs. Her published travel trilogy – comprising The Afghan Amulet (1994), The Golden Horde (1997) and The Linen Goddess (2003) – was written about the journeys featured in this exhibition’s photographs, and documents her search for the origins of a triangular amuletic motif that takes her from the Hindu Kush to North Africa. Her interest in the power of such symbols and wearable talismans also resulted in the 2004 book Amulets: A World of Secret Powers, Charms and Magic. Travelling extensively since the mid-1980s, Paine acquired numerous textiles and amulets in the course of this work, many of which are now held in the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, alongside her collection of over three thousand photographs generously donated since 2012.

For more information, visit the website of the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford.

Event: Indigo – From Texts to Textiles

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Event date: Wednesday 15 March 2017, 9.30 am 11.30 am

Indigo, ‘King of Dyes’, has been in continuous use for over six millennia, traded worldwide for use as blue dye, paint pigment and medicine. Its unique chemistry makes it suited to all types of textiles, whether prestige silks or popular blue jeans, as well as paint for frescoes, manuscripts, etc.

In this richly illustrated talk, to be held at the Bodleian Library, Jenny Balfour Paul, author of three books on indigo, international lecturer and traveller, will cover all aspects of this beautiful and fascinating blue, as well as indigo’s increasing popularity as a sustainable dye.

Booking: This event is free but places are limited so please complete the online booking form to reserve tickets in advance.

For more information, visit the website of the Bodleian Library, Oxford.

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: 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.

News: SADACC Trust Project – India and Pakistan Remembered

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The SADACC Trust (based in Norwich, UK) is seeking participants to be interviewed for the India and Pakistan Remembered 2017 project.

To coincide with the 70th anniversary of India and Pakistan’s independence, the SADACC Trust is embarking on an exciting oral history project. We will be interviewing people who have lived in India or Pakistan, or whose relatives lived there in the past.

We want to hear about your memories or family stories of life in India and Pakistan (whether recent or centuries ago). In particular, we are interested in learning about objects, heirlooms or keepsakes from the subcontinent that are still attached to, or seem to contain these memories. In discovering how objects help to relate people to events in the past, we hope to better understand what memories the objects in The South Asia Collection might evoke in visitors to the museum.

The India and Pakistan Remembered 2017 project will create an archive of recorded interviews about people’s memories (whether their own or stories they have inherited) of life in India and Pakistan. The interviews will also contribute to an exhibition – ‘India and Pakistan Remembered’ – and accompanying publications.

If you are interested or would like more information, please contact our Collection Curator Ben Cartwright at info@sadacc.co.uk or phone 01603 663890.

Participants are encouraged to bring objects (or photographs of those objects) which evoke stories of life in either India or Pakistan to interview sessions. We hope to explore how these objects spark memories of certain people, places and events in the past.

By agreeing to be involved, you will be a unique voice contributing to a better understanding of the history of India and Pakistan through lived experiences.

Please circulate this message to anyone you feel would be interested in being interviewed.

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.