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Sotheby's S/2 presents 'Stitched Up': A benchmark exhibition exploring textiles in contemporary art
Martin Kippenberger, Untitled, 1986. Acrylic and screenprint underwear on toweling and synthetic fibre with cardboard artist frame, 120.6 by 81.5cm.; 47 1/2 by 32in. Signed and dated '86 on the reverse. Photo: Sotheby's.
LONDON.- The 2014 autumn season opens in London with “Stitched Up” at Sotheby’s S│2 gallery, a benchmark exhibition exploring the growing movement towards the use of fabrics and techniques such as weaving, knitting and embroidery, in contemporary art today.

Showcasing acclaimed works by pioneers in the field, including Alighiero Boetti and Rosemarie Trockel, alongside other leading and emerging contemporary artists who work with textiles, including Sergei Jensen, Ethan Cook, Alek O. and Sterling Ruby, the exhibition traces key developments in material and technique from the 1980s to the present day, as artists increasingly turn to textiles in this digital era.

George O'Dell, Deputy Director, Sotheby's London Contemporary Art Department, who has curated the exhibition, commented: “We are extremely excited to present a show which explores a lineage of artists who work with weaving and textile manipulation: from artists like Trockel and Boetti, who examined notions of gender roles and painter/patron relationships, to emerging artists like Ethan Cook who look at how machine-made and handmade materials intertwine. This exhibition looks not only at the history of contemporary art's relationship to textiles, but also, more broadly, at the possibilities of what textile art can become”

One of the most influential figures behind this phenomenon is the German conceptual artist Rosemarie Trockel, famed for her “knitting pictures”, or Strickbilder, depicting computer generated motifs on lengths of machine-knitted wool. Suffering from agoraphobia from a young age, Trockel became something of a prisoner in her own home. Governed by this isolated framework, she created her own fiercely individual approach to art. The Strickbilder play on the clichéd view of knitting as a traditionally feminine pastime by utilising the processes and techniques of industrial production.

The appetite for work by Trockel, and for the finest examples of contemporary textile art, has never been higher: at Sotheby’s New York in May, a new auction record was set for the German artist when Untitled, 1985, achieved $4,981,000, well above its pre-sale estimate of $1.5-2 million. Similarly, anew auction record for Alighiero Boetti was also established earlier this year when Addizione, an embroidery from 1974, sold for over £1.7 million ($2.8 million), with an estimate of £300,000-400,000.

Like Trockel’s Strickbilder, Alighiero Boetti’s trademark embroideries, created collaboratively with artisans from politically troubled regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan, transform craft into a conceptual statement. Today, textiles and craft processes are at the heart of the latest developments in contemporary art practice. Emerging artists like Sergej Jensen and Ethan Cook are using handicraft techniques such as weaving, knitting and sewing, to create work that owes as much to the tradition of minimalistic and abstract painting as it does conceptualism. Other artists choose to re-appropriate found, mass-produced fabrics, like Alek O., who transforms discarded beach parasols into new geometric configurations.

The ancient techniques of weaving, stitching and the spinning of fibres are among some of the earliest forms of human creative expression, “Stitched Up” looks at how and why these processes are being adopted by artists today.

“Stitched Up” artists: Nina Beier, Alighiero Boetti, Ethan Cook, Ayan Farah, Sergej Jensen, Martin Kippenberger, Sam Moyer, Alek O, Sterling Ruby, Rosemarie Trockel





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