Thursday, 18 March 2010

Quilts 1700-2010 at the V&A

Yesterday I had an amazing opportunity to visit a preview of the Quilts 1700-2010 exhibition opening on March 20 at the V&A in London. The exhibition runs until 4 July 2010 and I would highly recommend you make time to visit it.

Quilts 1700-2010 is the V&A's first major exhibition devoted to quilts and patchwork and explores over 300 years of British quilt making. It shows around 70 quilts from a cot quilt made in the 1690's to recent example from contemporary artists such as Tracey Emin.
"To Meet my Past" by Tracey Emin 2002

Mixed media installation comprised of a four poster bed,

mattress and appliquéd linens and curtains

As far as quilt exhibitions go this one is very different. Curated by Sue Pritchard, the exhibition is presented chronologically and thematically with contemporary works woven throughout the themes : The Domestic Landscape;Private Thoughts;Political Debates;Virtue and Virtuosity;Making a Living and Meeting the Past.

As you walk through the 2 main exhibition halls the quilts tell a story of life and love, birth and death as well as political debate and national identity. Historic events and personal narratives are woven together and the inclusion of related materials like a makers diary and an embroidered box bring life to the quilts and their quilt makers.

I was particularly intrigued by the inclusion of sound and video clips into the exhibition. This added another dimension to the show and proved an excellent way to showcase less conventional quilt related art works. It was also a welcome counter to the low light levels which was necessary to protect the old textiles but was not conducive to best quilt viewing.

Great effort has been made to display the quilts and many have been placed on bed mounts to showcase them as they were originally intended. Unfortunately for me I felt the mounts were too harsh and the softness and drape of the quilts was lost as they lay slab-like on a box ... instead of a bed. The addition of a head pillow or an eiderdown underneath the quilts would have added height and structure to the quilts and increased appeal, but then maybe textile preservation prevented this.

HMS Wandsworth Prison Inmates talk about Fine Cell Work

The works of several contemporary British quilt artists are included in the show: Sara Impey, Dinah Prentice, Michele Walker, Pauline Burbridge and Jane Forgan, as well newly commissioned work by Jo Budd and one by the prisoners of HMS Wandsworth. Founded by Lady Anne Tree Fine Cell Work is a charitable organisation that teaches needlework to the inmates of some 26 prisons around the UK and watching to the video footage accompanying the quilt you immediately get the sense that this needlework means a lot to them. I was particularly captivated by the Wandsworth quilt. ..look closely at the detail and you get a snapshot of an inmates day in a simple hexagon block.

Allow yourself a couple of hours to go through the show. There is a lot to see and hear and to top it off when you get outside you will be directed through a shop (of course) with a fantastic line of 18 fabrics that have been designed with Liberty's of London to commemorate the exhibition. 

Did I buy any? Yes of course!
Check it out in the museum shop here!


Shevvy said...

Oh you lucky thing. Are you a member? I used to be and enjoyed the wed previews but I haven't had much chance to go in the last few years.
Saying that. I've been looking forward to this for a few months and am determined to go.
I've already ordered some goodies from the online shop so I don't have to drag it home with me.

Diane J. Evans said...

Oooh, make me drool -- show a picture of those fabrics from Liberty's!


Meg said...
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Meg said...

I wish I was in the UK so I could go see this! The piece from 1690 was probably amazing.

Mai-Britt Axelsen said...

I'll be going on April 24th......... !! So looking forward to it. Thanks for sharing the preview.

Sharon said...

Lucky you to go to the preview. I was thinking we might organise a trip up there in May sometime.

毅綠 said...

TAHNKS FOR YOUR SHARING~~~VERY NICE ........................................