Museum Abteiberg

23. Juni - 10. November

Opening: Saturday, 22 June, 8 pm

Before the opening, at 6 pm – as part of Ensemblia 2013:
Morton Feldman, Crippled Symmetry (1982), concert in the exhibition, musikFabrik Köln

Press preview: Thursday, 20 June, 11 am

Booklet of the exhibition you can download here.

With works by Magdalena Abakanowicz, Anni Albers, Carl Andre, Leonor Antunes, Tonico Lemos Auad, Thomas Bayrle, Otti Berger, Center for Social Research on Old Textiles (Seth Siegelaub),Yael Davids, Sofie Dawo, Hans Finsler, Elsi Giauque, Sheela Gowda, Eva Hesse, Sheila Hicks, Johannes Itten, Elisabeth Kadow, Paul Klee, Heinrich Koch, Benita Koch-Otte, Beryl Korot, Agnes Martin, Katrin Mayer, Cildo Meireles, Nasreen Mohamedi, Blinky Palermo, Lygia Pape, Walter Peterhans, Josephine Pryde, Florian Pumhösl, Grete Reichardt, Elaine Reichek, Willem de Rooij, Fred Sandback, Desirée Scholten, Johannes Schweiger, Gunta Stölzl, Lenore Tawney, Rosemarie Trockel, and Vincent Vulsma

Curated by Rike Frank and Grant Watson

As one of the oldest techniques in human culture, textiles store knowledge and labour and communicate via form. The woven structures are based on a system of intersecting threads leading via seriality and repetition to complexity and beauty. While textiles have been used extensively by artists as material, structure, texture and artefact to reflect on forms, processes and abstractions, they have been largely ignored by art history. And while there are many words for weaving, and the connection between textile and text is one of the oldest metaphors in architecture, philosophy and sociology, textiles, having been primarily viewed as a craft, have barely developed an impact within the art historical discourse on modernity, remaining little more than a footnote.

Based on the principle of woven structure and the thread as an organic line – as described, for example, by Paul Klee – ‘Textiles: Open Letter‘ creates a dialogue between historical works and those of a younger generation. The featured works reflect issues of abstraction and materiality and challenge preconceptions of weaving. Large-scale sculptures, wall hangings and reduced formations of lines push the limits of material and structure, improvisation and poetry. Especially since the Bauhaus, an influence has been exerted on textiles by material experiments and performative procedures from fine art and dance. During the 1970s, a number of women artists – including Leonor Tawney, Magdalena Abakanowicz and Sheila Hicks – created the Fibre Art movement with the aim of establishing an independent status for textiles as part of a feminist praxis: in close contact with Minimalist artists including Agnes Martin, and in some cases on the basis of training in the Bauhaus tradition, they designed monumental structures that moved beyond the technical limitations of the loom. Today, artists like Beryl Korot, Nasreen Mohamedi and Florian Pumhösl pursue aspects of serial notation as suggested by textiles, while Lygia Pape and Thomas Bayrle use the metaphor of the city as a social fabric as a point of departure in their work.

The exhibition shows the many and varied ways in which the history of Minimal and Conceptual art, movements that shaped the Museum Abteiberg collection, was influenced by textiles, and the extent to which textiles have often been excluded from the canon on account of their position between applied and fine art and their perception as ‘feminine‘. In this sense, the title ‘Open Letter‘ – that refers to a work by Bauhaus artist Anni Albers from 1958 – is to be understood as an invitation to rethink the influence of textiles on art and vice versa, as well as the key role played by textiles in the development of an abstract visual language.

In cooperation with Allianz Kulturstiftung and funded by Kunststiftung NRW.
The exhibition is part of the project Textiles: Open Letter by Rike Frank (Berlin), Grant Watson (London), Sabeth Buchmann (Vienna) and Leire Vergara (Bilbao). For details of events since summer 2012, see:

In 2014 ‘Textiles: Open Letter‘ will be on view at the Generali Foundation in Vienna.

Rike Frank is a curator and writer. She was a research associate at the Academy of Visual Arts in Leipzig where she initiated the Studio International programme for the Academy’s gallery, curating exhibitions including the first comprehensive solo show of Friedl vom Gröller (a.k.a. Friedl Kubelka), as well as initiating the conference on ‘Timing – The Temporal Dimension of Exhibiting‘ in cooperation with the ‘Cultures of the Curatorial‘ class. Between 2008 and 2010, she was on the programming board of the European Kunsthalle and co-curated Ludlow 38 in New York. She was a project manager at documenta 12 in Kassel and worked at the Secession in Vienna from 2001 to 2005, where she worked with artists including Michael Beutler, Minerva Cuevas, Ines Doujak, Henrik Håkansson, Mary Heilman, Michael Krebber, Silvia Kolbowski, Henrik Olesen, Josephine Pryde, de Rijke / de Rooij & Christoper Williams. Her most recent publications include Sketches of Universal History Compiled from Several Authors by Sarah Pierce (2013).

Grant Watson is Senior Curator at the Institute of International Visual Art (Iniva) London and also works as a freelance curator and writer. At Iniva his exhibitions have included ‘Social Fabric‘ (2012) an exhibition on textiles touring to Lund, Mumbai and Berlin, ‘Keywords‘ (2013) in collaboration with Tate, and a solo show of Indian artist Sheela Gowda (2011) – he has also co-curated ‘Sheela Gowda: Open Eye Policy‘ (2013) at the Van Abbemuseum and Lunds Konsthal. Until April 2010, he was Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp (MuKHA) where his projects included the large-scale textiles survey show ‘Textiles Art and the Social Fabric‘ (2009), the exhibition ‘Santhal Family positions around an Indian sculpture‘ (2008) and the ‘Keywords‘ lecture series. He was previously the Curator of Visual Arts at Project in Dublin between 2000 and 2005 where his programme focused on commissioning solo projects from contemporary Irish and international artists as well as group exhibitions such as ‘Communism‘ (2005). Grant Watson was ‘Visiting Curator’ for documenta 12 (2007) where he researched the participation of contemporary Indian artists in the exhibition. He studied Curating and Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths College, London, where he is currently a PhD candidate.


Eva Hesse, No title,1965
Tinte und farbige Tinte auf Papier, Credits: Ursula Hauser Collection, Switzerland
Photo credit: Archive Hauser & Wirth Collection, Switzerland

[Translate to English:] Beryl Korot, Text and Commentary, 1976-1977
five-channel video installation, black and white with weavings, drawings, pictographic video notations, 30 minutes, stereo sound

Installation view: bitforms gallery nyc, image courtesy bitforms gallery nyc, Photo by John Berens

Sofie Dawo, Wandbehang Wolle gewebt, 1965, Metallgestänge 250 x 140cm, Unikat
Courtesy Hans-Peter Jochum, Berlin

Rosemarie Trockel, Eisberg, 1986, Wolle, Leinwand, 2-lagig
Privatsammlung / Courtesy Sprüth Magers Berlin London

Beryl Korot, Text and Commentary, 1976-77, Detail:
piktographische Zeichnungen auf Fotopapier
Courtesy: bitforms gallery nyc

Nasreen Mohamedi, Untitled, c. 1970s, black and white photography
Privat Collection, New York
Courtesy: Deepak Talwar Gallery

Johannes Schweiger, Nostalgie für Obsoleszenzfreunde, 2013,
3 Stoff-Designs, 3 Hängevorrichtungen, Kunstdruck
Courtesy the artist

Sheila Hicks, Bas-relief for interior of Air France Boeing 747 Aircraft, 1969
Wild silk on polished cotton grid
Courtesy the artist and Sikkema Jenkins & Co.

Magdalena Abakanowicz, Zespół Czarnych Form Organicznych (Team Black Organische Form / Group of Black Organic Forms), 1974
Sammlung / Collection Muzeum Sztuki w Łódźi, Foto: Achim Kukulies

Sheela Gowda, Behold (Schaue), 2009, Courtesy the artist
Foto: Achim Kukulies

vorne: Johannes Schweiger, Nostalgie für Obsoleszenzfreunde, (Nostalgia For Obsolescence Cronies), 2013, Der Künstler / Courtesy the artist
hinten-rechts: Elaine Reichek, Parallelograms (Parallelogramme),1977, Courtesy die Künstlerin / the artist
Foto: Achim Kukulies

vorne: Leonor Antunes, Villa Mallet Stevens, 2011
Courtesy Isabella Bortolozzi Galerie

hinten: Vincent Vulsma, Figure 1.1 (Raghu Bhai), 2013
Courtesy der Künstler und / the artist and Galerie Cinzia Friedlaender
Foto: Achim Kukulies


Leonor Antunes, Vila Mallet Stevens, 2011
Courtesy Isabella Bortolozzi Galerie

Foto: Achim Kukulies

Grete Reichardt, Gunta Stölzl, Anni Albers, Sofie Dawo
Foto: Achim Kukulies

Tonico Lemos Auad, Installation view
Courtesy der Künstler und / the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London

Foto: Achim Kululies

Grete Reichardt, Gunta Stölzl, Anni Albers
Foto: Achim Kukulies

Ausstellungsansicht, Foto: Achim Kukulies

Ausstellungsansicht, Foto: Achim Kukulies

Elsi Giauque, Éléments textiles dans l’espace, (Textile Elemente im Raum / Textile elements in space), 1970/72
Kunstsammlung der Stadt Biel,

 Foto: Achim Kukulies

Beryl Korot, Text and Commentary (Text und Kommentar), 1976-1977
Courtesy bitforms gallery nyc,

 Foto: Achim Kukulies

Ausstellungsansicht: Loes van der Horst, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Desirée Scholten, Jagoda Buic
Foto: Achim Kukulies

Ausstellungsansicht: Sheila Hicks
Foto: Achim Kukulies

Ausstellungsansicht: Yael Davids (ropes)
Foto: Achim Kukulies