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Gommaar Gilliams featured at MoMu in Antwerp, Belgium

October 8, 2018

This Autumn, MoMu will present the exhibition “Soft? Tactile Dialogues” on location at the Maurice Verbaet Center in Antwerp. This will mark the first time that MoMu takes its focus away from fashion. It will present work from its own collection by Belgian textile artists from the 1970s and ’80s in an inspiring dialogue with contemporary artists who express themselves freely in textiles. The Maurice Verbaet Center’s 1960s architecture and its monumental stairwell form an impressive backdrop for the exhibition.

In the 1960s and ’70s, many feminist, post-minimalist, and fibre artists found their way to textiles. They were attracted to the aesthetic possibilities, structural potential, and semiotic power of this ‘soft’ material.

The intuitive or militant use of textiles – a material traditionally associated with commerce and industry – put pressure on the stark distinction between fine arts and applied arts.

It was precisely because of the sexist association of textiles with ‘women’s work’ or ‘decoration’, that feminist artists used it to denounce the balance of power within the art world.

Belgian artists such as Veerle Dupont, Suzannah Olieux, Hetty Van Boekhout, Liberta Ferket and Edith Van Driessche also expressed themselves in textiles during this era. Their oeuvres form an exceptional component of MoMu’s collection. Also shown in the exhibition is the work of the better known Belgian-Polish artist Tapta, whose work is part of the collection of Verbaet, a private collection of Belgian modern art produced after the war.

Although these artists often worked at the margins of the art world, their continual efforts were crucial for textiles to become an accepted medium in contemporary art.

In “Soft?”, MoMu will present work by this first generation for the first time in dialogue with contemporary artists such as Kati Heck, Nel Aerts, Anton Cotteleer, Sven ‘t Jolle, Klaas Rommelaere, Christoph Hefti, Stéphanie Baechler, Ermias Kifleyesus, Gommaar Gilliams, Wiesi Will and Kirstin Arndt.

This younger generation expresses themselves unapologetically and freely in textiles, often combined with other media. This sense of freedom is owed to the battle fought by that first generation, as well the changing perception of art criticism where the quality of an artwork has little to do with style or medium, but all to do with artistic intention.

“Soft?” is about the freedom with which artists move between various media, about unexpected textile applications, about tactility and aversion, about the textures and the skin of sculptures.