Ninety Years of Presenting Iranian Art at The Textile Museum

By Sumru Belger Krody
Submitted to Session P4811 (Presenting and Representing Iran in Museum Collections and Exhibitions, 2017 Annual Meeting
Art/Art Hist
LCD Projector without Audio;
The Textile Museum’s rich and comprehensive collections of textiles rank as among the foremost in the world. One of the Museum’s most important collections encompasses Iranian textiles dating from the 9th century to the 20th century. Established in 1925, The Textile Museum began building its Iranian textiles collection very early.

For The Textile Museum founder George Hewitt Myers (1875-1957), the attraction of the non-Western textiles that formed his collection lay in their high artistic sophistication, which he saw as inspiring and influencing the main traditions of art in the Western world. The guiding light for his collecting was a textile’s design. He believed that politics, religion, economics and geography all have their influence on design; he felt that conquest and defeat are recorded in its modification and changes, and that the energy, strength, life or decadence of a people cannot escape being recorded in its art. Thus, he was convinced, one can read the entire history of a society through the changes in its art and the development of design in its culture.

The proposed presentation will address the initial collecting philosophy and strategies of the museum’s founder and how it has been amended by subsequent curators, reflecting the dramatic changes in geopolitical realities of West Asia along with evolving scholarship and critical thinking about Iranian art, in specific, and Islamic art, in general.

I will trace the museum’s history and strategies of disseminating information about Iranian textile arts through its exhibitions and publications. This presentation will discuss the Museum’s contributions to the development of the field of Iranian textile studies, especially in situating this field in the wider context of Islamic art studies in the United States.