For the landmark 'Entangled: Threads and Making' exhibition at Turner Contemporary, Karen Wright played the double-role of curator, and 'international artist matchmaker'. She brought together a diverse group of over 40 female artists, many of whom desccended on the seaside resort of Margate for the weeks surrounding the exhibition's opening. Together, they occupied the bars and cafes once frequented by the likes of JMW Turner, and more recently, Tracey Emin. 'One evening, when they had all left, I went to the local pub on my own,' Wright explains, 'and the barman asked where all my interesting friends had gone. It was quite lonely!'
The artistic community Wright has helped foster is clearly felt when entering the David Chipperfield-designed museum, where friendliness abounds. Works in the entrance and upstairs loby (The Three Graces by Kashif Nadim Chaudry, and Knot Project by Anna Ray, both from 2016) have been handmade by local volunteers. What's more, no less than three school groups were wandering around the small museum when Wallpaper* visited, which made for a noisy, but intensely encouraging trip.
Wright's show focuses on textiles in post-1940s female art. On paper, it doesn't seem like a groundbreaking concept. After all, women have been using a needle and thread since they were invented. On looking round, the curation's bravery and progressive attitude jumps off the walls. But it has not been met without controversy. Margate local (and Turner Contemporary benefactor) Emin is notably absent from the group, which has been a particular sticking point for some critics, Wright explains. 'She's an artist who has had so much coverage already. This exhibition was about bringing together more up and coming names.'
Artists like Anna Ray, Karla Black and Laura Ford, whose 2012 Penguins sculptures provide another political texture to the already statement-making exhibition. Huddled in the back corner of the gallery, Ford describes these shifty looking characters as 'sculptures dressed up as animals which are dressed up as people'. In their many guises, they comment on global warming, youth culture and materiality, with a rare sense of humour.
This focus on emerging talent doesn't mean the exhibition lacks 'big ticket' works. Anni Albers' structural, taughtly-woven silk tapestry (designed in 1926) stands as an important juxtaposition to its later counterparts, like Ann Cathrin November Høibo's Untitled (Diptych) created specifically for the show, where threads colourfully explode, pull and unravel from their constraints. Elsewhere, Louise Bourgeois' profound bra clasp sculpture promises to be the smallest object that will ever halt you in your tracks.
It feels like an over-used phrase at the moment, but this exhibition couldn't have come at a better time. Despite this, Wright has been persuing the exhibition in various forms for the best part of a decade. 'Let's be honest, women have always had a bad deal, and there's no way I could have planned this to happen when it did,' she reasons. But as hand-knitted pink pussy hats dance across the world's major cities, the needle and thread are becoming tools of rebellion, reimagined as contemporary symbols of female unity; an idea solidified by Wright's international, welcoming and progressive showcase.
’Entangled: Threads and Making’ is on view until 7 May. For more information visit the Turner Contemporary website
Kent CT9 1HG
Receive our daily digest of inspiration, escapism and design stories from around the world direct to your inbox
Elly Parsons is the Digital Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees Wallpaper.com and its social platforms. She has been with the brand since 2015 in various roles, spending time as digital writer – specialising in art, technology and contemporary culture – and as deputy digital editor. She was shortlisted for a PPA Award in 2017, has written extensively for many publications, and has contributed to three books. She is a guest lecturer in digital journalism at Goldsmiths University, London, where she also holds a masters degree in creative writing. Now, her main areas of expertise include content strategy, audience engagement, and social media.
Hella Jongerius named Honorary Royal Designer for Industry 2023
The Dutch designer received the Honorary Royal Designer for Industry 2023 accolade alongside creatives from different disciplines
By Rosa Bertoli Published
London restaurant and tequila bar Ixchel brings Mexico’s timeless flavour to every sip and bite
On London’s King’s Road, Ixchel offers an unmissable fusion of Mexican art, cuisine and atmosphere
By Sofia de la Cruz Published
Matthew M Williams is leaving Givenchy
American designer Matthew M Williams is set to exit his role as creative director of Givenchy after a three-year tenure
By Jack Moss Published
Faith Ringgold on capturing the complexity of the American experience: ‘It takes courage to be free’
We interview Faith Ringgold, whose major retrospective exhibition ‘American People’ runs until 27 November at the de Young Musuem, San Francisco
By Aindrea Emelife Published
Textile artists: the pioneers of a new material world
These contemporary textile artists are weaving together the rich tapestry of fibre art in new ways
By Harriet Lloyd-Smith Published
Riotous colour, terrific textiles: Sheila Hicks: ‘Off Grid’ at The Hepworth Wakefield
Fiber art icon Sheila Hicks’ much-anticipated show at The Hepworth Wakefield is a career-spanning celebration of voluminous form and vibrant colour
By Jessica Klingelfuss Last updated
Jenny Holzer curates Louise Bourgeois: ‘She was infinite’
The inimitable work of Louise Bourgeois is seen through the eyes of Jenny Holzer in this potent meeting of minds at Kunstmuseum Basel
By Amah-Rose Abrams Published
San Francisco’s Museum of the African Diaspora reopens with Billie Zangewa and Amoako Boafo
Reopening for the first time since the onset of Covid-19, San Francisco’s Museum of the African Diaspora is staging epic exhibitions by Amoako Boafo and Billie Zangewa
By Pei-Ru Keh Last updated
Brand new Ace Hotel Brooklyn is entwined with fibre art
The Ace Hotel’s second New York outpost opens in Brooklyn with a programme of newly-commissioned textile art. We speak to curator and featured artist Niki Tsukamoto
By Harriet Lloyd-Smith Published
Instagram auction set to boost Stockholm art scene
Dreamt up by Stockholm-based Gustav Almestål and Hedvig Myhrman, S.Y.L.A. offers an accessible, streamlined concept to support local contemporary artists
By Harriet Lloyd-Smith Last updated
Ursula Hauser’s female-focused art collection appeals to our darker side
An edgy all-women exhibition at Hauser & Wirth Somerset explores the anatomy of the Swiss art maven’s private collection
By Jessica Klingelfuss Last updated