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Dazzling African textiles on view at Met Museum
Sep '08
Africa's extraordinary legacy of textile arts, with its explosive color and complex graphic statements, will be presented at The Metropolitan Museum of Art beginning September 30.

Bringing together more than 40 works dating from the early 19th century to the present – including a spectacular silk and cotton kente prestige cloth woven in Ghana during the 19th century and a 30-foot-long installation work by contemporary artist Yinka Shonibare – The Essential Art of African Textiles: Design Without End will highlight the enduring significance of textiles as a major form of aesthetic expression across the continent.

While examining some of the finest and earliest preserved examples of different regional textile traditions, the exhibition will relate these to works by eight contemporary artists, who draw inspiration from textiles in their explorations of other media ranging from sculpture, painting, and photography to video and installation art.

Works selected for the exhibition are drawn primarily from the collections of the Metropolitan and the British Museum as well as several private collections in the U.S. and Europe.

Exhibition dates: September 30, 2008 – March 29, 2009
Location: The Michael C. Rockefeller Wing
Press preview: Monday, September 29, 10 a.m. - noon

The exhibition is made possible in part by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Fred and Rita Richman, and The Ceil & Michael E. Pulitzer Foundation, Inc.

It was organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, in collaboration with the British Museum, London.

"Although the aesthetics of textiles essentially define Africa's cultural landscape, Western fine arts hierarchies have virtually overlooked textiles as an art form and have favored sculpture from the region. We are seizing this opportunity to heighten awareness of this critical dimension of Africa's artistic legacy," said Alisa LaGamma, Curator in the Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas.

"In January the artist El Anatsui installed his eloquent and highly original creation Between Earth and Heaven that is now one of the highlights of our permanent collection. This fall we will be able to present that 21st-century work in conversation with one of the monumental textile genres that he pays tribute to through his new idiom of expression," she continued.

Dazzling textile traditions figured importantly in the earliest recorded accounts of visitors to sub-Saharan Africa, dating to as early as the ninth century. Historically textiles also constituted one of the primary commodities imported into sub-Saharan Africa, through trade routes that extended south across the Sahara from North Africa until the 15th century and subsequently by Europeans along the Gold Coast.

Among the earliest documented examples of West African textile traditions were those collected by European textile manufacturers seeking new markets for their own exports in the 19th century.

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