The V&A will open its first ever exhibition of British quilts next week. Exploring 300 years of quilt making it provides a unique opportunity to view the V&A’s unseen quilt collection as well as key national loans.
Quilts 1700 2010 will have more than 65 quilts on display, from a 1690s cot cover, to more recent pieces designed by contemporary artists such as Tracy Emin and Grayson Perry. Also on display will be special commissions by Sue Stockwell, Caren Garfen and Jo Budd.
The first of its kind in the UK, the exhibition will feature a number of quilts from different periods, from the Bishops Court Quilt; a sumptuous silk and velvet bedcover, with an oral narrative that links it to King Charles II’s visit to an Exeter manor house in the late 17th century, to the 1730s patchwork bed hangings, displayed on bed mounts to enable visitors to view them as they were made to be seen.
The V&A curators have unravelled some of the interesting stories handed down with each spectacular piece. For instance, the 1829 Elisabeth Chapman coverlet, made to commemorate Wellingtons victory at Vittoria, was long believed to have been a wedding token. But the curators have discovered that the love poem on the coverlet is actually an epitaph connected to a gruesome Georgian tale.
The exhibition will conclude with a Tracy Emin installation called To Meet My Past, which explores the tradition of using quilts as a vessel for personal memories.
The pieces and installations in the exhibition will be displayed both chronologically and thematically including Private Thoughts, Public Debates, and British Eccentricity. Together the quilts document love, birth, death, marriage, regional and national identity, and fashion developments through the ages.
The aim of the exhibition is to encourage a new generation of patchwork and quilt-making artists. To this end the V&A will hold a series of lectures and workshops throughout the exhibitions run that will give visitors the chance to create their own quilts.
Director of V&A Mark Jones said: The exhibition has provided a wonderful opportunity to research and restore our own collection. We have discovered some fascinating material which adds a new dimension to our understanding of personal and social histories behind these quilts.
To celebrate the exhibition, V & A Shop has teamed up with Liberty Art Fabrics to produce a limited edition collection of 18 printed cotton quilting fabrics, each one bringing to life the stunning array of quilts on display in the exhibition. The pre-cut fabrics are available from a Fat Quarter size to 1 metre plus size cuts, and are priced from £3.50 upwards. Fabrics can be purchased onsite at the museum, or on the V & A Shop website.
Quilts1700 2010 opens on 20th March, and will run until 4th July. Tickets cost £10, and advanced bookings can be made by calling 0844 209 1770 or visiting the V&A website at http://www.vam.ac.uk/.