The Künstlerhaus is exhibiting textile rarities from Austrian private collections together with works by members of this artists' association whose work relates to textiles in a wide variety of ways. For artists, historical textiles are and always have been an inexhaustible source of inspiration and cultural exploration.
Artists use textile materials as a vehicle for expanding the fields of sculpture and of the two-dimensional artwork, and as a means of investigating the variability of their work, in terms of both format and contentual relationship. The theme of clothing as the human body's second skin is unthinkable without textiles. Likewise, one cannot imagine the theme of architecture and space without textiles: they are, after all, the traditional construction material and provider of shelter in nomadic cultures. In our own culture as well, textiles are an essential architectural element shaping the everyday surroundings in which we live.
Textiles are also central to a wide variety of cultural issues and relationships, particularly with regard to gender: traditionally they are associated with the feminine, whereby this association represents an exciting aspect of the exhibition. Most of the collector's items presented in the show were presumably created by women, and the same is true of a majority of its artworks. Collectors are generally male, which allows inferences to be drawn regarding the distribution of wealth in our society, but also diametrically opposed inferences regarding where, how and through whom culture arises.
Recently textiles have enjoyed a newly increased level of attention in the art world. Ten years ago it would have been unthinkable that the reopening of the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich (2013) or major exhibitions in Wolfsburg, Stuttgart, Paris and Angers (2014) would have explicitly focused on the role of textiles in modernism. Textiles were not considered worthy of much consideration as materials of serious artistic expression.
The artists of the Künstlerhaus represent multiple generations and attitudes toward making art with textiles. Their works stand in contrast to the collector's items, and yet at times they often have more in common with them than one would expect. In its spontaneous decision to participate in the organization of this exhibition in conjunction with the ICOC's Vienna event, the Künstlerhaus took a courageous step. As curator, Marga Persson had the difficult task of putting together an exhibition in which widely diverse interests and conceptions of art collide. Visitors must make their own decisions regarding this interplay. Here it would not be appropriate to raise any claim of presenting an exhibition of textile art and craftsmanship erected on the foundations of stringent scholarship. The show can only hope to provide an impulse toward giving textiles the attention they deserve, allowing its visitors to interact with the consonances and dissonances of the things as they are, of these important expressions of everyday culture and high culture, of past and present, with each area vying for primacy. Perhaps it is precisely the field of tension between these areas that can open new perspectives and give rise to new lines of discussion in art and culture.