26 January 2010

"Quilts and Art" or "Quilts Are Art"

So I visited The Textile Museum last week.  Currently, they have two amazing exhibits. 

I spent most of my visit on the second floor with Fashionably Wrapped: The Influence of Kashmir Shawls.  One thing the Museum does exceptionally well is to put beautifully displayed collections into historical context that is clear and relevant.  The fabric becomes so much more than fashion when one learns that European demand for Kashmir shawls drove the Indian weavers to come up with faster and cheaper methods of creating them.  When these methods became easily copied in Europe, the original market collapsed and thousands of Kashmir weavers died of starvation, taking the secrets of their craft with them.  Knowing this and then looking closely at the interlocking twill of a huge shawl that took somebody eighteen months to create by hand, makes the viewing so much more personal.  One can almost see the hands of the weaver in the threads.

On the third floor is the Quilt Collection.  It is, as one would suspect, stunning.  Such colour and patterning.  I highly recommend a visit before this display closes in March.  It did get me thinking though.  All these quilts are from the private collection of one family. Many art and artifact exhibits in Toronto are thus - on loan from wealthy collectors and displayed with much credit given to the benefactors.  In this case, it works.  Textile Museum?  Quilts?  It works, right?  However, so many exhibits elsewhere these days seem to be of the "Joe Smith's Private Collection of Stuff He Really Likes and He Gave Us A Lot of Money, So Here It Is", variety.  With the lack of proper funding, museums seem to be more and more bound to this type of thing.  It just makes me a little sad.

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