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A Little More About SPUN

“It’s a way to activate our collections.” That’s one of the outtake quotes from Christoph Heinrich, director of the Denver Art Museum, that I did not use in my article published last week in The New York Times headlined In Denver, Exhibits Interveave Genres. (Did anybody catch the importance of “interweaves” in that headline, which signified that the exhibits were about textiles?)

bbbbI like Heinrich’s choice of verb: activate. He was talking about SPUN, Adventures in Textiles, the museum’s spin on the range of exhibitions that will be on offer throughout the museum’s two buildings this summer, from May 19 through Sept. 22.

I’ve written several times before (see here and here, for example) that museums MUST make more to-do about their own collections, and Heinrich is pioneering one way. His approach, biennial museum-wide festivals that focus on one aspect of the collection, may not work everywhere. A collection has to have depth in several areas — not all — for it to work. Aside from having the goods, a museum has to have the marketing creativity. In 2011, ceramics became Marvelous Mud. Before settling on SPUN, Denver toyed with using fabric, fiber, threads, material and other words in the exhibitions’ title.

SPUN goes with the museum flow on another aspect, though. Like many other art museums, the new, expanded textiles gallery — a gift for which was the impetus pushing SPUN — will have a “PreVIEW Space,” where visitors can, for example, watch a textile conservator work on pieces.

Among other things. Alice Zrebiec, the textiles curator, told me that “the museum is committed to showing what goes on behind-the-scenes. It’s not just conservation, it’s the whole process — looking at an object for the next rotation, or an acquisition, a conservation assessment, then the conservation work itself. There is a big glass window for people to look into the space even when we’re not there. “Open Window” [when a conservator or curator is there] will take place every Thursday, and there will be selected programming at other times, special ones for members.It’s all a trial balloon.”  There will also  be a Textile Art Studio and a family installation.

If you read my article, you got a gist of the range of exhibitions SPUN entails — but not the images, which are great. Please take a look at this document: Spun – Adventures in Textiles_Image Highlights. (Here, too, is the press release.) .

Although I started this post talking about permanent collections, I can’t resist showing something the resourceful paintings department has gone far afield to borrow: a picture called Women Sewing with two Children (at right) by a late 17th Century Venetian painter known as the Master of the Blue Jeans.

Aside from being relevant, it shows people who believe that jeans were an American invention that the term is actually derived from their city of origin, Genoa. And they may also learn that “denim” is related to Nimes, the city in France that originated a similar blue fabric. The Galerie Canesso in Paris had a show for the Blue Jeans painter in 2010, whose 68-page catalogue can be perused here.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Galerie Canesso



  1. Since the Walters eliminated admission fees to its permanent collection in 2006 it has been committed to being open, accessible, and in the words of our Director of Conservation, Terry Weisser, “making visible the invisible”.
    To that end, the Walters opened the “Conservation Window” on the 4th floor outside the lab, where every Friday – Sunday visitors can see a conservator at work and talk to them about their project. It’s a favorite with visitors and brings new meaning to the concept of transparency in the art museum.

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