Egyptian tapestries from the Museum für Byzantinische Kunst’s rich textile collection are the source of inspiration for New York artist Gail Rothschild’s new series of monumental paintings. By juxtaposing her work with original ancient textiles from the 4th‒9th centuries, a fascinating dynamic emerges between the artefacts of a past culture and contemporary artistic production.
While searching for new sources for her large-scale works, Gail Rothschild came across colourful textiles from Late Antique Egypt with a rich range of imagery. They had fascinated many important artists, art collectors, fashion designers and people working in theatre during the period in which they were discovered around 1900. The Museum für Byzantinische Kunst (Museum of Byzantine Art) in Berlin owns the largest Late Antique Egyptian textiles collection in Germany. It was compiled in the final years of the 19th century as part of Wilhelm von Bode’s plans to establish a department with Late Antique and Byzantine art and everyday objects at the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum, slated to open in 1904. Its core consisted of more than 80 textiles from the collection of Carl Reinhardt, the former German consul in Cairo. Bode acquired these objects privately and gave them to the new museum. The textile collection grew in the following years through acquisitions and gifts from private individuals, as well as inventory transfers from the Ägyptisches Museum (Egyptian Museum) and the Kunstgewerbemuseum (Museum of Decorative Arts). Today it comprises around 2000 objects.
Gail Rothschild transforms everyday objects from late antiquity into 21st-century art in her monumental paintings. The artist visited the Bode-Museum for the first time in 2019 and became inspired to create a new series. Her images may look like copies, but only at first glance. Instead, they are independent works of art with a presence, vitality and appeal quite their own. The juxtaposition of her work with original ancient textiles creates a fascinating dynamic between the artefacts of a past culture and contemporary artistic production. Due to the size of her works, visitors cannot help but examine the small-format textile fragments more intensively. This provides an opportunity to re-experience them as handcrafted masterpieces, as well as to learn about their everyday functions and uses by cultures of the past.
Gail Rothschild (b. 1959, New York City) lives in Brooklyn. After taking her degree at Yale University, Rothschild began her career as an itinerant artist. She created site-specific installations for museums and colleges in the United States that address the country’s lesser-known histories of women and native peoples. In her work with archaeological textile fragments Rothschild collaborates with international museums.
A catalogue, published by the Verlag Schnell & Steiner, Regensburg, accompanies the exhibition.
A special exhibition by the Skulpturensammlung und Museum für Byzantinische Kunst – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
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