‘BIG’ new textile exhibit at ROM

Nov 5, 2012 | News

Graphic powerpoint illustrating the exhibit at the entrance.   PHOTO BY HEATHER VANANDEL

By Heather VanAndel

The Royal Ontario Museum unveiled its BIG new exhibit on Saturday.

Located in the Patricia Harris Gallery of Textiles and Costume on level four of the ROM, BIG displays objects from every century, style and country.

“It speaks to more than just objects that are big in size,” Evelyn McIntyre, docent of the exhibit and a ROM employee for 19 years, told Humber News. The exhibit also showcases objects that are big in historical significance, big in the news, big in price, or created by a “big” named artist.

The exhibit is held in the Textiles and Costume Gallery at the ROM. PHOTO BY HEATHER VANANDEL

“We are trying to bring stuff out that rarely, or never, gets viewed because they are too big” said McIntyre.  “Pieces that probably will never be viewed again.”

It is not just sheer size that prevents many of these pieces from being showcased regularly, but the materials from which they are made.

“We have to rotate the textiles,” said McIntyre. “Some of the materials cannot stay out as the light, temperature, and way they are displayed can ruin the material. We have been advised not to display some of the objects for more than one year.”

After being in this exhibit, the artifacts will go back into storage and continue to be monitored at the specific requirements that will preserve them.

The unveiling of the exhibit resulted in varied reactions from observers at the event.

“I am just stunned by the integrated detailed work and hours that have gone into this exhibit,” Diter Mensch, a former security guard for the museum, told Humber News at the opening.  “Both by the curators, and the artists.”

“I expected something much bigger,” Catherine Rupp, a Toronto resident, told Humber News.  “I still find it interesting, but there are very few pieces.  Although the pieces themselves are still beautiful, very diverse and interesting, I probably would not recommend this exhibit.”



Christian Dior Dress

This dress was the pivotal piece of the exhibit.  It is the work of John Galliano designed for Christian Dior’s 2011 spring/summer collection.  It shows “big” innovation because Galliano, when designing the dress, was attempting to create a 3-dimensional affect through using only 2-dimensional objects.  He accomplished this through the use of shading and creating the illusion that the dress shifts from red to black.  He used this strategy thoughout the dress, right down to the smallest details.  He designed gloves that are red on one side, and black on the other.  When the model wears the dress, on her right hand she wears the glove red side up, and on her left, black side up.  “The colour continues right into her fingertips when she wears this dress,” said McIntyre.

In total the dress weighs about 30 pounds, is made from 166.5 meters of cloth, and took over 500 hours to create.  It was the last and most technically challenging collection Galliano ever designed for Dior.






European Figured Silks

It would take two people, a weaver and a draw boy, the entire work day to produce only a few centimeters of this tapestry.  This resulted in these silks being the one of the most costly textiles ever to produce.

Each silk was designed to be an ironic example of their style and period, telling the story of the evolution of design and techniques from the 15th to 19th century.









Canadian Armchair.

Custom designed by Canadian Painter Percyval Tudor-Hard in 1926-27.  It was woven in France because those artisans were the only ones, at the time, that had a loom that could handle that type of material and design.  There are only a few designs like this.  The design in the fabric is entitled The Garden of Eden.  










Bed cover

A bed cover of this size — larger than a king-sized bed — and extravagance would have taken six specialists six months to create.  This in an item at the ROM which never gets displayed due to its size.  It was for items such as this that the ROM decided to curate the BIG exhibit.








Yves Saint Laurent’s everyday dress.

This dress was designed by Tom Ford and celebrates Paris’s dressmaking skills.  There were only three ever produced.











Feather Tunic

Exotic species of birds were hunted from 1000 till 1476 for the raw material to make luxury goods and fashionable accessories that expressed status and wealth, such as this feather tunic.  The feathers would be traded from the Amazon, over the Alps, to the south coast of Peru. This represents “big” innovation through the use of trade to create fashion items.







Mens Postillion Boots

These boots would be worn by postillion riders in France 1812-15. Postillion riders would drive a pair of horses that were pulling a coach.  The boots would be made from leather, wood, tar, and metal and meant to protect the riders legs from being crushed between the pair of horses and the coach.










Ceremonial Batik Wrapper

Originally designed in Jalla Indonesia.  A ceremonial batik wrapper would be hand drawn.  The  secret ingredient to create the design was to use beeswax, which would  resist the dye in the fabric and create the pattern.  The smell of wax on the piece is the one way to judge a superior piece from another.  The right to wear a wrapper was reserved to rulers and nobility who would the 12-meter long wrapper around their lower body.