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Salon du Tapis d'Orient

The Salon du Tapis d'Orient is a moderated discussion group in the manner of the 19th century salon devoted to oriental rugs and textiles and all aspects of their appreciation. Please include your full name and e-mail address in your posting.

Plenary Session: Daniel Walker's Talk on the Future of the Textile Museum

Dear folks

Saturday morning at ACOR 8 began with a plenary session featuring Daniel Walker, appointed as The Textile Museum's new director last Summer.

Walker was by turn funny, intelligent and imaginative as he sketched out some TM history for those who might not be familiar with it, acknowledged some very formidable problems the TM faces, said frankly to the group of ruggies he faced that the TM was likely to continue to devote its emphases fairly evenly between rugs and other textiles, and ended by describing some adventurous programs he intends.

He said that when Mr. Meyers founded the TM he had about 250 rugs and 65 textiles but when he died in 1957 the TM had about 500 rugs but had accumulated 3500 textiles. Walker said that the TM collection now comprises 17,000 pieces.

Walker said that the TM needs to play a leadership role in several areas. Importantly it needs to be an information center about rugs and textiles: the first place folks will tend to look. He said an important problem is now to interest young people. He said "I'm serious. Look around this room at the faces."

He mollified the ruggies by announcing that the "rug conference" (he is renaming it) will be held this fall and will be about "New Directions in Persian Rug Studies." Although there will be some great classical material the conference will not be limited to it.

Next Walker announced that the Meyers award this year will go to Josephine Powell (loud enthusiastic applause).

Walker outlined his thoughts and plans for the TM for the next few years. He said that in September there will be an exhibition entitled "Pieces of the Puzzle: the Classical Persian Carpets. He showed an image of a great Khorussan piece from the 15th-16th centuries that exists currently in fragments. The TM is going to "put them together"; as part of this exhibition.

In October, there will be an exhibition of the textiles of the Chin people of Southeast Asia. David and Barbara Fraser, who collect, have done field work and published in this area will curate this exhibition. The materials in the exhibition will be drawn from their collections and will afterwards come to the TM as a gift.

Sometime in 2007 or 2008, Richard Isaacson will curate an exhibition on Central Asian tent bands. And in 2008 in conjunction with the theme of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival that summer, the TM will mount an exhibition of Bhotanese textiles.

We are also, Walker said, going to be adventurous. He is thinking about an planning an exhibition of "Hippy Chic," centered on clothing from the 1967-1977 period. He showed an image of a colorful embroidered blouse done in the 60s by a skilled lady while in jail on drug charges. Walker said that items will be included only if they are also good art but he thinks of a colorfully painted VW van in the TM garden. He said that this was the first time that the "people" dictated fashion to the designers. He generally wants to examine the intellectual things that influenced "hippy" tastes and art, especially the way they drew on India and Africa. He said the TM is perfectly placed to make the "connections" that exist here.

Another of his "adventures" is likely to draw on the work of an African-American professor at The Chicago Institute of Art, who creates sculptural "constructions." These are made from such things as wire, odd fabrics, plastics, in one case lots of pencils and "found objects." They also have a "performance" aspect and some can be worn or entered. Walker talked about "sound suits" as one type of construction of this sort. He added that this professor is skilled at engaging young people in his work (even it seemed in some of its creation, but the craft and design visible in the pieces Walker showed seemed very high) and that he sees this exhibition as the TM "coming out party" demonstrating its ability to serve as a resource to the Washington, DC community.

Walker ended by showing a few images from a recent gift to the TM of 148 Central Asian ikats. Some of these resemble those in such previous collection such as the Goldman, but also have aspects that seemed distinctive. Walker said the TM had to recent additional space to receive this collection but that "How could you turn this material down? It would be insane!" He said that in due course there will be an exhibition and a publication.

(Strong general applause at the end in recognition of the fact that Walker seems to be demonstrating that he is the kind of creative force that the TM needs these days and that was sought when he was hired.)

More on the rest of yesterday later.


R. John Howe

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