Andy Warhol Fabric Exhibition at The Fashion & Textile Museum London
Rushing along the Southbank of the Thames, I was already late to meet my husband in Bermondsey, when I noticed a Quentin Blake exhibition at the Bankside Gallery. I cursed for not having time to pop in and waded through the crowds by The Tate in a rush to get to my destination. On entering the Andy Warhol textile exhibition at the Fashion & Textiles Museum, the first thing that struck me was the similarity in drawing style between Blake and Warhol’s work. It was the blacklines around nearly all of the prints on the textiles that made the colours pop out of the white backgrounds. Creating a fun, almost cartoon image.
‘His textile work reveals a joyful, free but exact penmanship. The designs were drawn in a specific way: abundant ink was then blotted when wet to produce the signature blotchy line.’ Explains Zara Rhodes in the foreword of the book that accompanies the exhibition.
Working chronologically from the 50s through to the 60s, each design is bold, bright and fun. Tongue in cheek conversational prints such as the pens Warhol used to create the blotchy lines as seen on the above skirt. Pot plants and gardening paraphernalia and even brooms were given the textile treatment.
Predictably, my favourite print is only displayed on a tiny collar but with the cotton reels and buttons it is an obvious choice. Happy bug day in yellow and brown is a close second. But then I love the ice cream prints. As you can see, it is difficult to choose.
What is striking is the wearability of the prints. Bolts of these fabrics lined up in a fabric shop would be as popular today as they were back in the mid 20th Century. Most of the prints were designed on a commercial basis to be created into clothes for the high street, including department store J. C. Penny. But some designs were also turned into fabric for the home sewist to make into items for the home.
1950s Conversational prints
In Search of Warhol’s textiles
Usually a large curation of work such as this is already in a collection from another museum or personal collection and borrowed by the museum for display. We couldn’t find reference to this in the exhibition and the book’s foreword explains ‘Warhol’s textiles are rare and hidden gems from this time, evocative of classic American fifties imagery.’ ‘Geoffrey Rayner and Richard Chamberlain (curators) have had to search extensively to put this collection together. While the designs are clearly Warhol…treasured fabrics were caught up in the mists of time and had drifted into obscurity. Thanks to Geoffrey and Richard’s persistent endeavours, these works have now been found and can be properly memorialised.’
‘Pinpointing the dates of most of his pre-Pop art textile designs is often difficult as Warhol kept few records.’ ‘Only a few of the converters who produced Warhol’s textile designs printed their name or logo on a selvedge.’ ‘While some of the textiles included have archival links with Warhol, others have until now remained unknown.’
Hardly any research has been given to these textiles, and the evidence in the present book is probably the first to explore their origins’Note on the catalogue of textiles, Warhol The Textiles (book to accompany the exhibition), Geoffrey Rayner and Richard Chamberlain
The Fashion & Textiles Museum (London) always offer interesting exhibitions. The small space results in the curators focusing on one subject such as this Warhol exhibition. The prints were more exciting than I had imagined and I kept going back around to see them again. I bought the book to revisit these fun designs. I visited on a Friday afternoon at 4pm, they close at 6pm. I recommend this time as we had the place to ourselves. The exhibition is on until 10 September 2023. Tickets cost £12.65, available in advance here or buy on the day at the museum.
Quotes taken from the book accompanying the exhibition. Warhol The Textiles, Geoffrey Rayner and Richard Chamberlain. Published in association with the Fashion & Textiles Museum. The photos were all taken at the exhibition, are credited to them.