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The Fabric of India Opens at the V&A

The long-awaited showcase for Indian textiles opens this Saturday, 3 October, at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. ‘The Fabric of India’ is the first exhibition to ‘fully explore the incomparably rich world of handmade textiles from India’. It offers the co-curators, Rosemary Crill and Divia Patel, the opportunity to present 200 objects, made up of items from the museum’s own extraordinary collection and pieces on loan from other institutions.

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Artfully conceived, the show leads viewers through a series of six distinct sections accompanied by a relaxing and unobtrusive soundscape, especially composed for the space by Jason Singh. Several impressive large-scale textiles have been displayed as they were made to be used, including a set of chintz bed-hangings from the Coromandel Coast, an appliqué wall hanging found abandoned on the streets of New York in the 1990s and the interior panels of Tipu Sultan’s 16th-century tent – usually on partial show at Powys Castle, Wales.

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Viewers are introduced to the raw materials that have contributed to India’s long history of producing textiles in high demand. The stylistic nuances arising out of complex global trade networks are explored, the splendour of court workshops is celebrated to great effect, the sacred attribution to Indian textiles by multiple faiths is represented, and the political story of khadi cloth and industrialisation tops off the antique sections before contemporary Indian fibre art and fashion are found in the last two rooms.

The rare and welcome chance to encounter such an array of historic textiles is supported by conservators at the V&A who have painstakingly ensured that each and every piece on show has been prepared for the demands of display. A catalogue accompanies the exhibition, and an account of the craftsmanship and regional variety demonstrated in ‘The Fabric of India’, written by Rosemary Crill, will feature in HALI 185.

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