The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Highlights 19th-Century Central Asian Ikats Beginning in March

Some 50 robes and panels on display in Colors of the Oasis: Central Asian Ikats

Houston, Texas—February 8, 2017—In March, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, presents Colors of the Oasis: Central Asian Ikats, an exhibition of nearly 50 ikat robes and panels from the renowned Murad Megalli Collection of the Textile Museum, housed at the George Washington University Museum in Washington D.C. Originally produced in the 1800s in weaving centers across Uzbekistan, including Bukhara, Samarkand, and the Fergana Valley, the ikat textiles on display—including robes for men and women, dresses, trousers, and hangings—feature eye-catching designs in dazzling colors.

These bold garments were mainstays of cosmopolitan oasis culture in the 19th century, worn by inhabitants of different classes and religions throughout crowded marketplaces, private homes, centers of worship, and ceremonial places. Supplemented by historical photographs and didactic materials about the tradition of their creation, the textiles will be on view in Houston from March 12 to June 4, 2017.

“The selection of robes and panels on display is of exceptional quality, drawn from the renowned Murad Megalli Collection of the Textile Museum and chosen carefully for their unique and striking patterns,” said Gary Tinterow, director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. “These garments provide a glimpse into the marvelous inventions of the Central Asian artists who created them and the culture of the individuals who wore and displayed them.”

“We are especially thrilled to present Colors of the Oasis at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston,” added Aimée Froom, curator, Art of the Islamic Worlds, and curator of the Houston presentation. “Additionally, special installations of ikat textiles from India, Japan, and Central Asia in the Museum’s permanent galleries will demonstrate ikat traditions from around the globe and will amplify the significant selection of Central Asian ikats on display in Colors of the Oasis.”

Legacy of Central Asian Ikats
Central Asian ikats are distinguished by their bold, brilliant designs in vibrant hues, showcasing the 19th-century artists’ attention to the harmony of design, color, and execution in their creations. Though prized for their great beauty, the textiles also held great cultural and historical significance in the urban and rural communities in which they were worn. Ikats were offered by emirs (rulers) to other rulers and important guests as part of a centuries-old gift-giving tradition; provided luxurious embellishment in the home and during family ceremonies; and were considered precious possessions, often forming part of a dowry or passed down through the generations as family heirlooms. Among the most valued type of textile at the time, ikats—and the fabric and colors used to produce them—provided visual clues about the wearer, indicating his or her social standing, wealth, domestic role, tribal affiliation, and even geographic region. Today, contemporary trends in design, fashion, and home decor reflect the long-lasting and far-reaching legacy of this tradition around the world.

The “Ikat” Technique
The term “ikat” refers to both the type of textile and the technique used to create it. Regarded as one of the world’s most demanding dyeing techniques, ikat is executed by protecting various sections of the yarns stretched across and throughout the loom, so that these areas resist dye when immersed in a dye bath. This process requires careful attention and planning in order to achieve the desired pattern after weaving, and the resulting designs range from highly complicated, multicolored compositions to simpler, two-tone patterns.

About the Exhibition
The first significant Central Asian ikat exhibition in the United States in more than a decade, Colors of the Oasis travels to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, following presentations at the Textile Museum and the Seattle Art Museum, with nearly 10 textiles unique to the Houston presentation. Supplementing the textiles on view will be historical photographs of Uzbeks clad in ikat robes, inviting visitors to visualize how the garments were once worn and used. Additional examples of ikat textiles from Central Asia and other cultures will be on display in the Art of the Islamic Worlds, Arts of India, and Arts of Japan galleries nearby.

Organization and Funding
This exhibition was organized by the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum.

In Houston, generous support for this exhibition is provided by:
Bruce and Terry Baganz
Luther King Capital Management
Franci Neely
The E. Rhodes & Leona B. Carpenter Foundation
Jennifer and Matt Esfahani
Mary Jo Otsea and Richard Brown
Alastair and Kathy Dunn
Felix and Keisha Phillips 

About the Art of the Islamic Worlds at the MFAH
Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2017, the Art of the Islamic Worlds program at the MFAH was established as an institutional commitment to collect, exhibit, and interpret art from the Islamic worlds. Since 2007, the Museum has been developing a focused collection with an emphasis on quality and rarity of the objects. The growing collection has been acquired primarily with funds raised at the Art of the Islamic Worlds Galas, with support from the Friends of the Art of the Islamic Worlds patron group, and with gifts from generous donors. The program has also brought to the MFAH significant exhibitions, including Treasury of the World: The Jewelled Arts of India in the Age of the Mughals (2002); Traces of the Calligrapher: Islamic Calligraphy in Practice, c. 1600–1900 (2007); Light of the Sufis: The Mystical Arts of Islam (2010); and Gifts of the Sultan: The Arts of Giving at the Islamic Courts (2011). Currently on view, Arts of Islamic Lands: Selections from The al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait features more than 240 objects on long-term loan from the renowned al-Sabah Collection, one of the greatest privately held collections of Islamic art in the world. The collaboration with the Museum, established in 2012, led to the 2013 Houston debut of 67 objects, which has since quadrupled to a comprehensive range of Islamic objects from Qur’ans, calligraphy, and paintings, to carpets and architectural fragments, ceramics, metalwork, jewelry, and scientific instruments.

About the MFAH
Established in 1900, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, is among the 10 largest art museums in the United States, with an encyclopedic collection of more than 65,000 works dating from antiquity to the present. The main campus comprises the Audrey Jones Beck Building, designed by Rafael Moneo and opened in 2000; the Caroline Wiess Law Building, originally designed by William Ward Watkin, with extensions by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe completed in 1958 and 1974; and the Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden, designed by Isamu Noguchi and opened in 1986. Additional spaces include a repertory cinema, two libraries, public archives, and facilities for conservation and storage. Nearby, two house museums—Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, and Rienzi—present American and European decorative arts. The MFAH is also home to the Glassell School of Art and its acclaimed Core Residency Program and Junior and Studio Schools; and the International Center for the Arts of the Americas (ICAA), a leading research institute for 20th-century Latin American and Latino art.
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