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.

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

pointe-a-calliere-from-the-lands-of-asia

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: REMINDER – Talk by Author and Specialist Chris Aslan Alexander – A Carpet Ride to Khiva

oatg-a-carpet-ride-to-khiva

Event date: Thursday 13 October 2016, 6.15 – 8pm

This is just a reminder about the OATG event taking place next Thursday, in which Chris Alexander will be speaking about carpet weaving in Uzbekistan. Chris has also recently let us know that he will be bringing carpets and other textiles for a show and tell session after his presentation for attendees of the event to see.

Chris Aslan Alexander established two workshops in Khiva in Uzbekistan, recreating fifteenth-century Timurid carpet designs from forgotten illuminations and reviving silk carpet weaving, natural dye-making and suzani embroidery. To find out more about Chris, and about the book he has written on this subject, visit his website.

Location: The Pauling Centre, 58a Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 6QS.

Admission is free for members, and £3 for non-members.

There are still a few places remaining at this event, so please book yours now if you’d like to come.

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

Event: Talk by Author and Specialist Chris Aslan Alexander – A Carpet Ride to Khiva

oatg-a-carpet-ride-to-khiva

Event date: Thursday 13 October 2016, 6.15 – 8pm

Chris Aslan Alexander established two workshops in Khiva in Uzbekistan, recreating fifteenth-century Timurid carpet designs from forgotten illuminations and reviving silk carpet weaving, natural dye-making and suzani embroidery. To find out more about Chris, and about the book he has written on this subject, visit his website.

Location: The Pauling Centre, 58a Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 6QS.

Admission is free for members, and £3 for non-members.

For more information, please contact the OATG events organisers (oatg.events@gmail.com).

Exhibition: Sewing Paradise – A Sisterhood Through Suzani

Irma Stern Museum - Sewing Paradise

Exhibition dates: 2–30 July 2016

Sewing Paradise, on show at the University of Cape Town’s Irma Stern Museum, is a celebration of the contribution women make to the world through their creative talents. The show will feature Manina Baumann’s magnificent collection of hand-embroidered Uzbek suzanis as well as art works that have been created in response to these Central Asian textiles. Curated by Michael Chandler, the all-female exhibition aims to explore the notion of the inner-garden; a timeless metaphor for a state of ideal beauty and harmony. Exhibiting local and international artists, the show will also feature lesser-known works by Irma Stern, who herself was an ardent textile enthusiast and collector.

For more information, visit the website of the Irma Stern Museum, Cape Town, South Africa.

Exhibition: Turkestan Journey

Asia House - Turkestan Journey

Exhibition dates: 19 April – 12 May 2016

Turkestan Journey is an exhibition of traditional jewellery and textiles from Central Asia, dating from the nineteenth to the early twentieth century, from the collection of Almaly Company from Kazakhstan.

The collection was started just twenty years ago and encompasses the works of craftsmen from Western Kazakhstan, who embodied the very finest traditions of national jewellery making and art, as well as accessories from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, the Karakalpak area and Kyrgyzstan. It also includes elaborately embroidered robes from Bukhara and national costumes from Tajikistan and Turkmenistan regions as well as filigree belts from Crimean Tatars.

This jewellery differs significantly from region to region with each tribe having its own ornament and chosen semi-precious stones. For instance, jewellery from Khorezm may be distinguished by its carnelians and large round corals inset within pendants and necklaces. Turquoise, pearls and mother-of-pearl were beloved stones of the jewellery-makers of Khorezm and Bukhara.

The exquisite items selected for this exhibition (almost 60) represent all types of ornaments worn in this part of the world during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The full and amazing diversity of Central Asia is laid bare here: from the richly decorated head bands of Uzbekistan and large silver gilt heart-shaped hair ornaments of Turkmenistan to the richly patinated and time-worn stylish silver Kazakh rings.

This private collection, comprising more than one thousand different types of jewellery and textiles from Central Asia, is of great importance to the development and understanding of cultural identity. Not only is it vivid evidence of the preservation of valuable museum pieces, but also a chance to see the cumulative and cultural experience gathered by the artisan jewellery-makers of the region throughout their rich and varied history.

A talk to accompany this exhibition will take place at Asia House on 26 April. The evening talk is free to attend but booking is essential.

For more information, please visit the website of Asia House, London.

Exhibition: Old Patterns, New Order

GW Textile Museum - Old-Patterns-Carpet-Weavers

Exhibition dates: 10 October 2015 – 29 May 2016

Under Soviet political rule, artists across Central Asia created images that both embraced modernity and idealised the past. This exhibition examines the socialist realist art movement in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and other areas of Central Asia, pairing twentieth-century paintings with examples of the traditional textiles they depict.

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

News: Director of the Savitsky Museum Fraudulently Ejected

Savitsky Museum - Marinika Babanazarova

On the 4th September the Savitsky Museum will be celebrating the centenary of the birth of Igor Savitsky, a Ukrainian artist who in his younger years assembled a major collection of Qaraqalpaq embroideries and yurt decorations and went on to rescue a vast number of threatened avant-garde paintings from the Soviet authorities. The museum that he founded – the Qaraqalpaq State Museum of Art – is one of the highlights of a visit to Qaraqalpaqstan in far western Uzbekistan. Foreign ambassadors, museum supporters and local dignitaries have been invited to the Museum’s centenary celebrations.

It was therefore something of a bombshell to receive news last Monday that Marinika Babanazarova, the Director of the Savitsky Museum, had been summarily sacked. The granddaughter of the first President of Qaraqalpaqstan, Marinika had been personally chosen by Savitsky to be his successor. For the past 35 years she has devoted her life to promoting, developing and defending the museum. However, as the international fame of the museum increased, intense jealousies were fired among the museum establishment in Tashkent.

Savitsky Museum - Qaraqalpaq Textile

A Qaraqalpaq shalma kergi storage bag on display at the museum

It is hard to understand the murky world of Uzbek politics, but it appears that someone in authority has decided to kick her out. Museum auditors were dispatched from Tashkent to check the Savitsky art collection for fakes using an ultraviolet light. They decided that some were forgeries and Marinika has been accused of selling the originals, using the Friends of Nukus Museum to take them out of the country. The whole scam would be laughable, were it not so tragic. As we know from many past visits, security at the museum is intense, with pairs of Uzbek policemen guarding every entrance, curators placing seals on every door at closure, and the director having no direct access to the collection herself. The accusations are despicable. Marinika is a woman of the utmost integrity.

For the past week we have been sending information to the BBC, Channel 4, the Guardian, the UK ambassador in Uzbekistan, the US and other European embassies in the UK and many other contacts with an interest in Central Asia and its textiles. You can read some of the responses on the following webpages:

David and Sue Richardson
Monday 31 August 2015