Also of interest to contemporary art collectors
are the playful and deceptively complex textiles of Africa. Even
those that are centuries old have a sensibility that is fresh
and modern to our eye. A recent exhibition in Paris showed the
textiles of the Kuba peoples of Zaire accompanied by paintings
of Paul Klee, Georges Noel, and Bradley Walker Tomlin. The influence
of these textiles cannot be missed.
While you may not think of coming to New Mexico
to find textiles from Europe and Asia, gallery owners travel
around the world and collect material that has long been part
of the eclectic and colorful Santa Fe look. More predictably,
there is a good range of objects from the Americas. Several shops
and galleries have the beautifully colored costumes of Guatemala,
and the witty applique blouse panels or molas of the Panamanian
Cuna peoples. There are also the exquisitely striped ponchos
from Bolivia and the ancient garments from Peru, perhaps the
most sophisticated of all South American textiles in terms of
technique and iconography.
Collectors take note
As with other antiques, the questions of authenticity
and condition are important. Authenticity can be learned by studying
the objects and reading. If you have not built your own expertise,
it is best to rely on that of a respected dealer. The condition
of a textile should always be considered when making a purchase.
A textile in perfect condition is ideal, but old pieces that
have been used and loved carry a patina that may bring a deeper,
more sublime pleasure. The problems of condition most common
to antique textiles are dirt, wear and fading. Antique textiles
can usually be cleaned either by dry or wet methods. Holes and
other damage can also be repaired by sewing or reweaving. This
is the work of a skilled restorer or conservator. Frequently,
restoration work has been so successfully done that it is not
apparent to the untrained eye. Always ask to have the restoration
work pointed out.
There are many options in displaying your textile
collection. A frequent choice is to sew the textile to what is
known as a "rigid mount": a stretcher with fabric pulled over
it. A rigid mount should be done only by a professional textile
mounter because if it is not done correctly, the textile will
eventually begin to sag. After the textile has been properly
mounted, it can be further framed, with or without glass or plexiglass.
Because textiles have great tactile qualities, it is a pity to
cover them, but it should be done if they are to be hung in a
high traffic or breezy place. Many creative methods for displaying
fabrics can be used by employing poles, bamboo, plexi or lacquered
dowels suspended from the ceiling or wall. A recent magazine
article showed Kenzo's house in Paris filled with his textile
collection draped over kimono racks: a traditional Japanese way
of showing beautiful garments when they were not being worn.
One of the pleasures of collecting textiles
is their comparatively low price. Being in the forefront of this
new collecting area is a definite advantage. Instead of acquiring
one object, you can consider assembling a whole collection for
the cost of one painting. Putting together a collection is an
adventure full of learning and discovery. Then there is the thrill
of finding the ultimate textile treasure!