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Godwin-Ternbach Museum Exhibition, “From the Desert to the City: The Journey of Late Ancient Textiles”

September 13, 2018 - December 13, 2018

The Godwin-Ternbach Museum invites everyone to their new exhibition, From the Desert to the City: The Journey of Late Ancient Textiles, which will run from September 13th-December 13th.

This exhibition places textiles from Late Antique Egypt in multiple contexts—their original use in the 3rd-7th centuries, their rediscovery in the early 20th century, and their reception in the present day—bringing these colorful remnants of the ancient past to life for to today’s audiences.

Curated by Queens College Art History professor Warren Woodfin in collaboration with museum co-directors Elizabeth Hoy and Brita Helgesen, the exhibition highlights the recent gift of eighty-five textile pieces from the Rose Choron collection to the GTM.

The first part of the exhibition sets the stage for the original use of these textiles, placing them in context with other household and religious objects, all of which provide comparisons for motifs and themes that dominate the textiles: myth, the natural world, and health and prosperity. The GTM’s own Late Ancient objects are joined by important loans from the Brooklyn Museum, including two elements from a large-scale Roman floor mosaic and a selection of architectural and figural sculptures.

The second part of the exhibition addresses the discovery of “Coptic” textiles in the late 19th and 20th centuries, both by the archaeologists who excavated them and the artists who turned to them for fresh inspiration. Here, comparative works highlight the impact of the rediscovery of these textiles on modern art from the visual to theatrical, including drawings by Henri Matisse and costume designs for Jules Massenet’s opera Thaïs.

The third and final section juxtaposes the Late Antique textiles with contemporary works inspired by them. From the Desert to the City features work by Brooklyn artist Gail Rothschild, who has created large-scale paintings directly inspired by the fragmentary condition of the Choron textiles. Figurative works in crochet by Queens-based Caroline Wells Chandler propel stylized late antique figures into bold, humorous, 21st century Technicolor. By tracing the reception of the textile arts of the Late Ancient world into the 21st century, the exhibition will attest to their continued vitality as sources of creative inspiration as well as scholarly insight.

As always, admission to the GTM is completely free of charge! As with a number of past exhibitions at the museum, Queens College’s students are contributing to the research and writing for the exhibition and accompanying catalogue. This was facilitated through an Art History graduate seminar taught in Spring 2018 by Warren Woodfin. The full color catalogue presents essays by Jennifer Ball, Glenn Goldberg, Elizabeth Hoy, Thelma Thomas, and Warren Woodfin, along with contributions from Queens College graduate students in Art History.


September 13, 2018
December 13, 2018
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Godwin-Ternbach Museum
65-30 Kissena Blvd, 405 Klapper Hall
Flushing, NY 11367 United States

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