Art & Textiles

Fabric as Material and Concept in Modern Art from Klimt to the Present
21 March – 22 June 2014

Art & Textile shows a current trend in artistic development. Crocheting, knitting, embroidery, and work with fabric and other hitherto unusual materials are being done in contemporary studios everywhere.

The juxtaposition of abstract artworks with exhibits usually presented in ethnological museums reveals commonalities of creative ideas in the horizontal and vertical grid of woven fabrics.

In this way, the exhibition spans centuries and different regions of the world to show how the textile not only defines our human condition, but also, and above all, has been an important source of inspiration for the development of modernity.

The different aspects of textile art are shown in thematically arranged rooms. The comparison of modern with historical works shows that the structure and pictorial language of textile art forms served as inspiration for the composition of pictures and the choice of forms over the centuries.

The importance of the textile in modern art

The creative use of textile forms was at all times an important part of everyday life and in the work of artists, but usually as a craft separate from the so-called high art. With industrialization, techniques that had been ubiquitous until the 19th century fell into oblivion, and it was the artists of Art Nouveau who rescued traditional crafts by breaking down boundaries between art and design and dissolving the hierarchies between art and craft.

In the example of Gustav Klimt's portrait of Marie Henneberg, the transition between the materiality of the garment and the decoration in the background is barely perceptible, and this work exemplifies how textile design now becomes an important component of painting.

Via Art Nouveau, the visitor is led on to the Bauhaus in Weimar and Dessau, where textile design found a high point in exchange with abstract painting. This creative period also saw the emergence of the so-called "Fiber Art", which was on the rise after the Second World War, especially in the United States.

Through this art movement, the textile as a medium, technique, material or idea was integrated into modern art and taken up by many avant-garde style developments in the 1950s and 1970s. Exemplary of this time period, the exhibition presents works by Anni Albers, Brice Marden, but also Joseph Beuys, among others.

Despite this obvious integration of textile art forms into general art creation, textile art continued to be dismissed in many cases as "women's stuff" and female housework. Rosemarie Trockel's knitted pictures in the early 1980s brought textile art out of this niche and smoothed the way for a paradigm shift in society's understanding.

The link to the contemporary art world is made via exhibits by Gerhard Richter, Yayoi Kusama, Birgit Dieker and Yinka Shonibare. They work quite naturally with textile materials in their design. The medium seems to have been finally removed from the realm of arts and crafts and to be on a par with to other materials for artists.

Relevance of textile art in Stuttgart

The special motivation for bringing this exhibition, conceived for the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, to Stuttgart in a concentrated form lies, among other things, in the fact that in Baden-Württemberg the textile is still resident in the form of large but also small companies and is thus perhaps even more alive than elsewhere in Germany.


A catalog for the exhibition "Art & Textile" has been published.