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Unravel: The Power and Politics of Textiles in Art

Start Date 13 February 2024
End Date 26 May 2024
Venue The Barbican
Location London,England
Curator The Barbican, London and Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam,
Blue woven fabrics of different shapes and patterns sewed together

This exhibition will shine a light on artists from the 1960s to today who have explored the transformative and subversive potential of textiles.

Spanning intimate hand-crafted pieces to large-scale sculptural installations, this major exhibition will bring together over 100 artworks by 50 international practitioners. Drawn to the tactile processes of stitching, weaving, braiding, beading and knotting, these artists have embraced fibre and thread to tell stories that challenge power structures, transgress boundaries and reimagine the world around them.

Organised thematically, with artists placed in intergenerational and transcultural dialogues, Unravel: The Power and Politics of Textiles in Art considers the various ways in which artists have used textiles to speak to stories of marginalisation and exclusion, as well as emancipatory joy and transcendence. The show’s earliest works were created in the 1960s, when many artists were pushing the sculptural boundaries of the medium and challenging the limiting parameters of ‘fine art’ and ‘craft’.

Expanding across both time and geography, the exhibition will present six themes – ‘Subversive Stitch’, ‘Fabric of Everyday Life’, ‘Borderlands’, ‘Bearing Witness’, ‘Wound and Repair’ and ‘Ancestral Threads’ – which together explore the role of textiles in artistic practices that challenge dominant narratives, push up against regimes of power, and manifest an enduring spirit of hope.

Images courtesy of Barbican, London, UK and Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.