Issue 30
The Artist Textiles
From Picasso to Warhol, the latest exhibition at the
Fashion Textile Museum explores the dynamics of fashion and art through textiles in
the twentieth century.
Fashion and art are inseparable for as long as we can remember. The latest Spring collection was no exception - Chanel galvanized the runway with its palette of color on silk slips and popping eye makeup, which reminded us of the ‘mobile’, a kinetic sculpture built by artist Alexander Calder. Also, the queen of digital collages Mary Katrantzou showcased electrifying patterns, reminiscing Fauvist Raoul Dufy’s hyper color and bold contour. And during Christopher Raeburn’s show, the parachute-inspired dresses conjured up the image of Georges Braque’s subdued emotional drama with neutral hue.
The Artist Textiles exhibition at London’s Fashion Textile Museum delves deeper into this relationship between fashion and art in an unprecedented way. The exhibit evokes an interesting dialogue with ‘democracy, art for the people’ as its undercurrent theme. It provides a unique view as a visual explanation on how ordinary people could participate and engage themselves with the modern art during its era: The 20th century.

The 20th century was one of the most revolutionary periods in history, politically, socially, culturally and artistically. Many artists engaged with the ever-widening democratic franchise through design for mass production, as an art form for the people, rather than the traditional one off work of art destined for an elite. Textile design provided the ideal vehicle for artists such as Picasso to directly touch the lives of ordinary people.

Curated by Geoff Rayner and Richard Chamberlain, the exhibits are the work of artists, not designers, and nearly all were mass-produced by industrial methods for commercial companies.

“This exhibition allows a remarkable glimpse of how ordinary people were once able to directly engage in a personal and intimate way with high modern art through their everyday clothing and the furnishings of their homes”, explained the curators.

“This exhibition of rare fashion and furnishing fabrics by artists highlights the quality of textiles as a medium for combining art and mass production. With recently discovered works by Dufy, Dali, Miró and Picasso, we hope to shed new light on artistic practice in the mid-twentieth century,” said Celia Joicey, Head of the Fashion and Textile Museum.

Artist Textiles is organized by the Fashion and Textile Museum and runs from 31 January – 17 May 2014.

Opening image: ‘A Fish is a Fish is a Fish’, designed by the painter and designer Ken Scott and illustrated in Interiors magazine, September 1951. Shown here is a border printed version for dresses and skirts.
Words by Sunny Park