Pre-Columbian Textile Art: Design that Speaks Today

Exhibition Dates: 
Saturday, May 09, 2009 to Sunday, Aug 02, 2009

Selected from the Museum’s significant Pre-Columbian art collection, the works of art shown in this exhibition have rarely been displayed. The textiles range in date from around 100 BCE to 1450 CE and include pieces from six ancient Andean cultures. The technical virtuosity displayed in the weaving of these pieces is exceptional, and several weaving techniques are represented. Together, the textiles provide a glimpse of the fantastic inventiveness and artistic expressiveness of the weavers. The bright colors and bold patterns range from the simple to the complex; the forms vary from the naturalistic to the imaginative; and the artistic stylization moves among the geometric, zoomorphic and anthropomorphic.

Cloth held a very important role in the culture of ancient Peru and was an important signifier of social, political and religious information. While mainly used for clothing, textiles were placed in burials, dedicated as offerings and given as gifts. Cotton and wool were the primary materials. Unlike the coarse wool of the llama and soft wool of the alpaca, both of which came from domesticated animals, the finest wool of the vicuña had to be gathered from wild animals.

This exhibition also features commentary by the noted mixed-media artist Jo Stealey, Professor of Art at the University of Missouri. Having traveled and studied in Mexico and Guatemala, she brings her extensive artistic expertise to the exhibition commenting on various aspects of the pieces, revealing their relevance to today’s audiences, connecting past and present, and exploring the relevance of ancient art to contemporary artists.

Appliqués and Tassels
Slit & Interlocking Tapestry Weave
Open Work Weaving
Tunic: The Power of Imagery
Tunic: Elegant Simplicity
Woman's Mantle
Geometry and Peruvian
Triple Weave Sash
Primary Geometric Designs
Animals & Figures
Woven and Painted Designs
Feathers & Fans
Pre-Columbian Textile Specialist

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Galleries CLOSED due to current community health concerns

"I still remember the feeling of awe and disbelief when I was alone and walked in the room with those casts." --Ruth Tofle, chair of architecture, winner of the 2013 distinguished faculty award from the MU Alumni Association