The usually brutalist Barbican is somewhat softer at the moment, as the art gallery has been filled with soft textiles, looking at how fabrics have been used in art rather than fashion.

It’s an exceptionally wide-ranging exhibition, from artworks that look almost like clothing to artworks that are so sculptural that it can be almost difficult to believe they’ve been made out of textiles.

The exhibition’s impetus is the notion that fabric as art has been overlooked for too long and often dismissed as a craft or woman’s work. So here, the Barbican has pulled together nearly 50 artists and some 100 artworks looking at how fabric can be both art form and political statement.

The exhibition has loosely defined themes, but really, it’s just a feast for the eyes, and you’re not always sure if you should admire the craft at work of the art it presents.

A huge wall panel of embroidery is almost as amazing from the rear as it is from the official front.

The cactus made from US Border Patrol uniforms and the border tapestries are more political, reminding us how we’re controlled by political lines on a map and, in the exhibition, by the lines on the floor that you shouldn’t step over.

The amorphous blobs that hang in one room are supposed to represent organic matter — although they reminded me more of the cyberpunk movie Akira.

Overall, there’s a lot to see here, and even if the politics can be at times a bit too intense, the artistry is excellent.

The exhibition, Unravel the Power and Politics of Textiles in Art is at the Barbican Art Centre until 26th May 2024.

You can book tickets in advance from here, or on the door if there’s capacity.

  • Standard: £19.50
  • Concessions: £14.50
  • Under 14/Members: Free


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One comment
  1. Juliet says:

    Please could you credit the names of the artists with the pictures you are showing….it’s very frustrating not to be able to find out who has created these. Otherwise, many thanks!

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