By now, you’ll have picked up that famed fashion museum MoMu Antwerp is currently officially ‘closed for renovations, open to inspire at other locations’ until 2020. This autumn, MoMu’s debut extra muros exhibition titled “Soft? Tactile Dialogues”, hosted at the Maurice Verbaet Center in Antwerp, will take a radical step forward by not focusing on fashion for the first time. For “Soft?”, MoMu delved into their archive of Belgian textile art from the 70s and 80s and placed them in dialogue with present-day textile artists like Kati Heck, Klaas Rommelaere, Nel Aerts and many more. KNOTORYUS got a preview of this colourful, humorous and diversely sense-stirring expo, open to visitors now.
“Soft?” is a spontaneous result of the bond between Maurice Verbaet Center – home to the largest collection of postwar Belgian art – and MoMu Antwerp. In the 60s and 70s, a community of artists known as the Belgian ‘Textile Group’ denounced prevalent sexist art world views on textile art, choosing to celebrate the ‘soft power’ of fabrics. It was a time when the Vietnam war, the women’s movement and a revival of handicrafts heavily impacted global artistic viewpoints. MoMu curator Elisa De Wyngaert felt a correlation between the work of these undervalued Belgian artists of yesteryear and introduced them to newer work, as there’s currently a renewed interest in textile art going on – hopefully a result of a decrease in dogmatic thinking and a rebalancing of gender stereotypes in artistic practice.
Potent archive pieces, such as a towering installation by Belgian-Polish artist TAPTA and work by Veerle Dupont, or scarred recycling by Edith Van Driessche take over the ground floor of the impressive 60s-style building, while the upper floors and winding stairwell weave current-day pieces by WIESI WILL, Sven ‘t Jolle, Anton Cotteleer and more together.
The exhibition’s poster child, a beguiling creation by Kati Heck is the top-floor focal point corresponding with a hemp-canvas painting one floor below. It might look like the aftermath of a giant stuffed animal guillotine, but according to Heck the severed head amicably decided to part ways with its body.
A particular standout is the 50-piece embroidery on knitwork installation by Belgian artist Klaas Rommelaere, created in collaboration with women living in an elder care facility in Merksem. It’s titled “Future” and takes a simple everyday object, a can, as its focal point. A simple beer or soda can, thrown in the recycling bin, symbolizes many different intimate moments. The work is a truly collaborative feat, a trait shared by many of the pieces on display. As a visitor, you quickly learn how textile art is rarely a solitary endeavour.
“Soft?” is an expression of liberation, movement and an unexpectedly imaginative experience bringing you closer to the textural skin of sculptural art. So go feel (without actually petting the art, please)!
“Soft? Tactile Dialogues”
September 28 2018 – February 24 2019
Maurice Verbaet Center*
2018 Antwerp, Belgium
Friday to Sunday (1PM-6PM)
*With additional participating window displays in Lange Leemstraat, Antwerp