Press Release  July 8, 2019

"The Fabric of India": Exploring the History and Vitality of Textiles

The Ringling, Sarasota, Florida, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Riding Coat (detail). Mughal, c.1620-5. Satin-woven silk embroidered with silk thread. Length: 100 cm. V&A: IS.18-1947.

SARASOTA, Fla.,  – Textiles are and have been a defining force in India’s culture and history, so much so that in ancient Greece and Babylon, “India” was shorthand for “cotton.” The Fabric of India, The Ringling’s first major exhibition of Indian art, showcases the variety, technical sophistication and adaptability of Indian textiles from the 15th to the 21st century.

The Ringling, Sarasota, Florida, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Female wedding outfit (detail). Designed by Sabyasachi Mukherjee Kolkata. West Bengal, 2015 2014-15. Woven khadi, silk and cotton; kantha and golf-thread embroidery (zardozi). Gifted by Sabyasachi Mukherjee.

The Fabric of India, on view July 7-Oct. 13, 2019, features more than 140 examples drawn from the internationally-renowned holdings of London’s Victoria & Albert Museum and international partners. Historical dress, carefully preserved fabrics and cutting-edge current fashion will be displayed, giving visitors an opportunity to explore not just the superior craftsmanship of the textiles, but the story they tell about the social, economic and political exchanges that drove their creation and consumption.

“The beauty and technical mastery of the textiles in this exhibition are extraordinary, but there’s also a great deal of substance,” said Rhiannon Paget, Ph.D., curator of Asian art at The Ringling. “Ultimately, the exhibition is not just about textiles or India, but about the shared histories, achievements and fates of people in every corner of the globe.”

Spanning more than 500 years, The Fabric of India showcases the remarkable techniques of weaving, dyeing, printing and embroidery of the Indian textile industry. Organized in six thematic sections, the exhibition features a wide range of objects such as a Kashmir Map Shawl, a large, finely-woven pashmina intricately embroidered with a bird’s-eye view of the city of Srinagar, capital of the territory of Kashmir; a border for a woman’s dress from the 19th century embroidered with green iridescent beetle-wing cases; and a more-than-50-foot Gujarati room hanging that was found abandoned on a New York City street. Fabrics and clothing from contemporary designers that engage with India’s rich heritage of textiles will also be displayed, including pieces by Osman Yousefzada, Dries Van Noten, Hermès, Rahul Mishra and Manish Arora.

The Ringling, Sarasota, Florida, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Sari (detail). Bangaluru, Karnataka, ca. 1867. Silk and metal-wrapped thread. 790 x 109cm. V&A: 6107 (IS).

“In our interconnected global landscape, exhibitions like this are essential to increasing our understanding of the forces that have shaped an important industry,” said Steven High, executive director of The Ringling. “And the vibrant color and extraordinary artistry of the objects will certainly inspire creators in our community and beyond.” 

A 240-page color book, edited by Rosemary Crill, former senior curator of the Asian Department at the Victoria & Albert Museum, will be available for purchase in the Museum Store.

About the V&A Museum

The V&A is the world’s leading museum of art, design and performance, with collections unrivaled in their scope and diversity. It was established to make works of art available to all and to inspire British designers and manufacturers. Today, the V&A’s collections, which span over 5000 years of human creativity in virtually every medium and from many parts of the world, continue to intrigue, inspire and inform.

About The Ringling

The Ringling is a center for art and history, situated on 66 magnificent acres on the shores of Sarasota Bay. It is built on the remarkable legacy of circus entrepreneur, collector of art and financier John Ringling and his wife Mable.

The Ringling inspires visitors with an acclaimed collection of Old Master paintings, explores with them the diverse cultures and art of Asia, delights them with the story of the American circus as told through the first American circus museum as well as the world’s largest circus model, and transports them to the Roaring Twenties during a tour of the magnificent Ca’ d’Zan mansion.

The Ringling is also committed to exhibiting the work of an emerging community of living artists whose work moves beyond traditional practice and features dynamic and engaging contemporary visual and performing arts, including a diverse roster of theater, music, dance and film.

The Ringling is the State Art Museum of Florida. Affiliated with Florida State University, it is one of the largest university art centers in the nation.

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