A Word from Collector Karun Thakar on "Indian Textiles: 1,000 Years of Art and Design" in Washington, DC

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A Word from Collector Karun Thakar on "Indian Textiles: 1,000 Years of Art and Design" in Washington, DC
Shawl or waist-cloth (detail), Paithan or Aurangabad, Maharashtra, early 18th century, with stamp with date 1120 AH/1708-9 CE. The Textile Museum Collection 6.315. Museum purchase.



WASHINGTON, DC.- "The place that The Textile Museum occupies in both the museum world and the textile field is quite unique: no other institution in the arts world is capable of acting as the ambassador for the textile arts. Its work demonstrates how the whole of human experience is captured and expressed in this medium in ways unlike any other art form. In broadening appreciation for textile arts, the museum helps to promote greater cultural understanding and generate interest in underappreciated forms of artistic expression. These are aims that my collecting interests share. It is a great privilege to be invited to be part of the museum's mission, an event that marks a high point in my own collecting journey.

"As the idea of an exhibition developed it became clear that in part it would be a reflection of the museum's own personality. The division of the "Indian Textiles: 1,000 Years of Art and Design" exhibition into three parts—abstract, floral, and figurative design—chimes in a serendipitous way with its objects having been drawn from three collections. I should first mention that of the museum's influential founder, George Hewitt Myers, which naturally reminds us of the collecting focus at the time it was formed. Therefore we find Indian courtly silks, woven shawls and "Fustat" fragments. The Cotsen Textile Traces Study Collection came to the museum in 2018. Containing almost four thousand objects, it has proved transformative in its scope, creating layers of connections across time and regions. Among the objects it brings to this exhibition are important early cottons and silks. From my own collection are added complete painted cottons and objects from lesser known areas of Indian textiles.


Coverlet (kantha), undivided Bengal, late 19th or early 20th century. Karun Thakar Collection, London.

"My collecting has never been dictated by conventional tastes or with a view to investment or monetary value. Therefore sharing this collection is a means of showing material that is perhaps less widely known and not often seen in museum displays. An example in the exhibition and book would be the baghs and the kanthas made by women to mark certain rites of passage for their respective families; these have been seen as simple, less formal forms of domestic embroidery and have thus escaped the attention of many larger museums.

"The quantity of pieces shown together will help to demonstrate the variety of individual artistic expression contained within groupings, and may inspire interest and wider understanding of the cultural and personal narratives of different communities.

"At an early stage of my interest in Indian painted and resist-dyed cottons, The Textile Museum inspired me through 'Master Dyers to the World'—its groundbreaking exhibition and catalog on the subject almost forty years ago. It is a great honor for me to have been invited to show pieces of my collection alongside those from esteemed collectors such as Lloyd Cotsen, and to have Mattiebelle Gittinger consulted in the planning. For this is a remarkable confluence of events."


Hanging, southeast India, 17th/18th century. Karun Thakar Collection, London.

The excerpts above are taken from the essay "The Karun Thakar Collection," written by Karun Thakar for the exhibition catalog "Indian Textiles: 1,000 Years of Art and Design," which is available for purchase ($80) through the museum's Artisans Gallery at 202-960-5311 or artisansgallery@gwu.edu.

Installation view. Photo by Gabrielle Rhoads/the George Washington University.

The exhibition, which showcases nearly 100 masterworks dating from the eighth to the early twentieth centuries, is on view solely at The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum in Washington, DC, through June 4, 2022.

Admission to museum is free of charge. For the most up-to-date information on the museum's location, visiting hours, exhibitions and educational programs please check the museum website.










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