Review of the Antique Textile Exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum Of Art in NYC
Beginning on Monday, September 16, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City will be hosting a very special, four-month antique textile exhibit of fine antique textiles from around the world.
The massive fall exhibition, which unfolds in nine galleries throughout the museum, features more than 130 unique textiles and nearly 30 culturally significant garments, including dresses, quilts, and bedcovers from across the world.
“Interwoven Globe: The Worldwide Textile Trade, 1500-1800,” is on such a grand scale and includes pieces from so many different cultures across the globe that the exhibition could only be put together with the expertise of curators from nine different departments throughout the museum, something that has never been done before in the history of the Met Museum.
“Interwoven Globe” is remarkable for this incredible breadth. Works from places as far flung as China and England or France and India are featured, as are pieces from as early as the turn of the sixteenth century and as late as the dawn of the 19th century. Rarely (if ever) has such an incredible assortment of textiles been put on display in one place.
According to a description for the antique textile exhibit from the Met’s website, “Beginning in the sixteenth century, the golden age of European exploration in search of spice routes to the east brought about the flowering of an abundant textile trade.
Textiles often acted as direct currency for spices, as well as other luxury goods. Textiles and textile designs made their way throughout the globe, from India and Asia to Europe, between India and Asia and Southeast Asia, from Europe to the east, and eventually west to the American colonies.”
By brilliantly utilizing the global sea trade of the Early Modern and Modern periods as a frame of reference for this vast collection, the Met has been able to bring together pieces that otherwise may never have been in the same museum together, let alone the same exhibition.
Rave reviews for this ambitious antique textile exhibit have already begun pouring in. In the cover story for Friday’s Weekend Arts section of the New York Times, Roberta Smith writes highly of the last gallery of the exhibition, which features three Tree of Life Tapestries, one from India, one from the Netherlands, and one from the United States, all side by side. Smith writes, “This confrontation is only one of many drop-dead moments in which pictorial power, astonishing skill and cultural cross-germination collude, and where the historical Western infatuation with all things exotic is strikingly apparent.”
Indeed, by assembling such a diverse range of works that nevertheless possess certain unifying elements of design, the Met has opened a window into the shared nature of the human experience, shedding light on how deeply interrelated peoples from all over the globe have become, especially since the beginning of global trade in the Early Modern period.
Tapestries are something that a great many cultures have in common, and offer a unique insight into what makes people from different parts of the earth similar, rather than different. Such is the message of this fantastic new Met exhibition.
“Interwoven Globe: The Worldwide Textile Trade, 1500-1800,” opens on Monday, September 16 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It Runs through January 5, 2014.
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