21.03. – 22.06.2014

Art & Textiles

Fabric as Material and Concept in Modern Art from Klimt to the Present

Art & Textile calls attention to a current tendency in artistic development. In studios far and wide, contemporary artists are crocheting, knitting, embroidering, and working with textiles and other hitherto unusual materials.

The juxtaposition of abstract artworks with objects ordinarily presented in ethnological museums sheds light on the common creative ideas in the horizontal/vertical grids of woven fabrics.

The exhibition spans centuries and various regions of the world in such a way as to show how textiles not only determine human existence, but above all how they served as an important impulse in the development of modernism.

The various aspects of textile art are presented in rooms arranged by theme. The comparison of modern and historical works shows that, over the centuries, the structure and pictorial language of textile art forms have served as inspiration for compositional and formal choices in art.

The meaning of textile in modern art

The creative use of textile forms has always been an important aspect in the everyday lives and work of artists, but usually considered a craft and as such distinguished from so-called high art. In the nineteenth century, the process of industrialization went hand in hand with the disappearance of previously omnipresent techniques. It was the practitioners of Art Nouveau who rescued traditional handwork by dissolving the boundaries between art and design and the hierarchies between art and crafts.

In Gustav Klimt’s portrait of Marie Henneberg , for instance, the transition from the materiality of the gown to the background décor is hardly perceivable, and this work is an excellent example of how textile design now became an important element of painting.

By way of Art Nouveau, the exhibition leads to the Bauhaus in Weimar and Dessau, where the exchange between textile design and abstract painting reached a culmination. It was in this period that the foundation for so-called “Fiber Art” was laid, a movement that gained ground after World War II, particularly in the USA.

Textile was thus integrated in modern art as a medium, technique, material and/or idea, and adopted by many avant-gardist stylistic currents in the 1950s and 1970s. In the exhibition, works by Anni Albers, Brice Marden, but also Joseph Beuys represent the developments taking place in that period.

Despite this obvious incorporation of textile art forms into general artistic practice, however, textile art continued to be widely written off as a female hobby or women’s housework. In the early 1980s, Rosemarie Trockel took textile art out of this niche with her “knitted paintings” and smoothed the way for a paradigm shift in society’s conceptions.

Objects by Gerhard Richter, Yayoi Kusama, Birgit Dieker and Yinka Shonibare – artists who work with textile materials as a matter of course – usher us into the world of contemporary art. The medium has meanwhile apparently been freed from the status of handicrafts once and for all, and is now at artists’ disposal on a par with other materials.

The relevance of textile art in Stuttgart

This exhibition was originally conceived for the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg. One of our chief motives for bringing it – in concentrated form – to Stuttgart was the fact that textiles have long represented an industry in Baden-Württemberg, in large and small companies alike, and are thus perhaps of more relevance here than elsewhere in Germany.


An exhibition catalogue has been published.

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