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Liberty Art Fabrics & Fashion

Start Date 28 July 2018
End Date 12 January 2019
Venue Dovecot Studios
Location Edinburgh, UK
Curator Dennis Nothdruft
Adapted for Dovecot Studios by Kate Grenyer
Consultant Anna Buruma
Exhibition display of dressed mannequins

Dovecot Gallery brings to Scotland for the first time, a major retrospective celebrating the innovative retailer and design studio Liberty London. Featuring over 100 garments and fabrics spanning over 140 years, this exhibition explores how textiles bring art into everyday life.

Liberty Art Fabrics & Fashion charts Liberty’s history as a source for key trends in cultural history, including Aestheticism, Art Nouveau, Bauhaus, Pop and Psychedelia.

The exhibition presents a historical survey, featuring early garments inspired by the Far East, through to iconic designs of the Swinging Sixties and more recent collaborations with leading British designers.

Arthur Lasenby Liberty’s visionary store was established in London in 1875 selling dyed silk fabrics from the Far East, but quickly expanded to become the destination of choice for the discerning fashion buyer. As the Arts & Crafts movement in Britain went international, Liberty traded in imported woven goods, wools and silks from Asia, attracting the attention of artists and innovators of the time including William Morris, Oscar Wilde and Edward Burne-Jones. Unlike Morris, Liberty believed that using industrialised methods to produce textiles was essential in order to make beautiful things available at an affordable price.

It was in the district where Morris’ own workshops at Merton Abbey where Dovecot Studios’ founding weavers were trained, that Liberty established a textile print works. Liberty’s pioneering vision to support British design and craftsmanship extended to engage local textile mills to weave cloth and printing firms to create new colourfast dyes, to replicate the popular fabrics he sourced from overseas.

Throughout its history, Liberty’s print collaborations with textile and fashion innovators including Yves Saint Laurent, Loewe, The Vampire’s Wife, Manolo Blahnik and most recently Richard Quinn, have secured the company’s global reputation as the source and originator of key trends and design revivals. Such is the fame of Liberty that in Italy the Art Nouveau style became known as the ‘Stile Liberty’. Pieces within the collection on display for Liberty Art Fabrics & Fashion demonstrate the breadth of these designer collaborations whilst associations with Scotland including designers Jean Muir and Marion Donaldson are also highlighted.

Celia Joicey, Director of Dovecot says; “Dovecot is delighted to bring Liberty Art Fabrics & Fashion to Edinburgh. The exhibition celebrates how a British textile brand can become a worldwide success as well as a byword for artistic quality and creativity. Liberty has a long association with art and design in Scotland, from paisley patterns and the Arts and Crafts Movement to the modernity of Jean Muir. This exhibition is an opportunity to explore Liberty’s Scottish textile connections in the context of the company’s commitment to international avant-garde fashion design.”

Madeleine Macey, Marketing & Communications Director of Liberty London says: “Liberty is thrilled to collaborate with Dovecot Studios as part of this year’s Edinburgh Art Festival. Like Liberty, Dovecot represents exceptional art and craftsmanship in textiles with a renowned international reputation. We are very excited this exhibition explores how artists, designers and other creative individuals have used Liberty as a medium for self-expression from 1875 to the present day.”

Bringing a contemporary response to the exhibition, emerging artist Lucy Wayman showcases recent sculptural pieces as part of the display. Her works revolve around repetitive structures and soft materials and utilise generational craft techniques, such as weaving and macramé. The exhibition Liberty Art Fabrics & Fashion is presented in partnership with Edinburgh Art Festival and The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and in association with Liberty London, with support from The Dovecot Foundation.

The Liberty Art Fabrics & Fashion display is part of a touring exhibition originally presented at the Fashion & Textile Museum in London and comprises the private collection of Liberty garments and objects owned by Marc and Cleo Butterfield. The Liberty in Fashion exhibition at Fashion & Textile Museum was organised by the Museum and Newham College, and was curated by Dennis Nothdruft, Curator of Fashion & Textile Museum, with exhibition consultant Anna Buruma, Liberty London Archivist. Kate Grenyer, Dovecot’s Exhibitions Curator has adapted the display for Dovecot’s audiences.

Dovecot_Press Release_LIBERTY_01.08.2018

Image courtesy of the Dovecot Gallery, Edinburgh.