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Moroccan Rugs and Textiles


Featuring Rare Masterworks from IMA's Renowned Textile Collection

INDIANAPOLIS-This spring the Indianapolis Museum of Art will present The Fabric of Moroccan Life, an exhibition showcasing 150 rare embroideries, hangings and rugs drawn from the Museum's renowned textile collection. On view from March 24 through June 23, 2002, The Fabric of Moroccan Life includes woven masterworks that reflect the broad range of traditions and cultural influences active in Morocco during the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. The majority of these brightly colored pieces, featuring lively geometric and floral designs, have never before been on public display.

The Fabric of Moroccan Life explores the artistic importance of these superb weavings as well as their central role in Moroccan culture. Part of an oral and creative tradition passed down through generations, the hand-woven works reflect the diversity of this African nation's landscape, culture and society. To enrich this evocative picture of Moroccan life, the exhibition will also feature striking pieces of Moroccan jewelry and costumes from the same periods.

The Fabric of Moroccan Life is under the High Patronage of His Majesty Mohammed VI, King of Morocco and will travel to the Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C., June 15-August 30, 2003.

The Exhibition

The Fabric of Moroccan Life will be divided into two sections, with the first featuring urban embroideries and the second exploring the weavings of the indigenous people of Morocco, the Berbers.

For centuries, the cities of Morocco, Fez, Rabat, Meknes, Azemmour, Tetouan, Chechaouen and Salé, have been melting pots of cultures from Europe to the Middle East, each with distinct artistic techniques and traditions. Highlights of the textiles in this first section include several striking embroideries from Azemmour, which were used to decorate mattress covers, curtains and cushions. The Italian and Spanish influence in these pieces demonstrates the exchange of design motifs that occurred in the Mediterranean during the Renaissance.

Also on view are intricately woven belts from the imperial city of Fez that were worn by women of royalty and donned for weddings and special occasions by the wealthy merchant class. The geometric interlacing in these decorative garments is a feature of Islamic design often seen on tiles and architectural decorations.

One of the most important pieces in the exhibition-and in the IMA's entire textile collection-is an immense velvet and gold embroidered wall hanging from Fez, measuring 167 x 66 inches. Pieces such as this were owned by the wealthiest of families. The architectural elements in the design were used to create a special setting for marriage celebrations. Embroidered with costly gold threads, this seven-panel wall hanging is an example of the most prestigious of this type of cloth.

The second section of The Fabric of Moroccan Life will explore weavings of the nomadic Berber peoples of the Atlas Mountains. Encompassing many different groups, the indigenous Berber population created weavings in rich and varied styles for a wide range of uses. A Berber tent-adorned with rugs and other weavings, and a loom-will be installed inside the exhibition gallery to provide visual context for the many ways the Berber people used these elaborate creations in their daily lives.

The Berber weavings include examples of vibrantly colored floor rugs, saddle bags, tent hangings and women's shawls. Distinct in design, with stripes and narrow bands filled with complex arrangements of triangles, diamonds, chevrons and zigzags, the patterns of these weavings symbolically represent the beliefs and identity of the Berber people. For Berber women, certain designs are believed to ensure fertility and to possess mystical or protective powers.

One of the finest examples of Berber weavings in the exhibition is a ceremonial sequined blanket. Sequins are prized in Moroccan tradition for their reflective quality-symbolic in a nomadic lifestyle permeated with the glow of fire by night and bright sunlight by day. Given the fragile nature of these sequined blankets, it is rare for one to survive in such an excellent state of preservation.

Regardless of their geographic origins, either urban or nomadic, these textiles were all crafted by women. Urban women of wealth were taught to embroider fine textiles at a young age, filling their dowries with pieces intended to be displayed or worn at special occasions. In contrast, Berber women learned to weave out of tradition and necessity, creating intricately designed garments and furnishing textiles both for use in everyday life and to embody magical powers. All of these textiles are artistic expressions of the individual women who imagined and created them.

The Collection

The IMA's extraordinary textile collection was formed by Admiral Albert Parker Niblack, an Indiana native and distinguished United States Naval officer, while he was stationed in Gibraltar in 1917. Upon his death, he gave this collection to his sister, Eliza Maria Niblack, who was also an avid textile collector. The Niblack family bequeathed the collection to the IMA in 1933-along with more than 2,000 other Indonesian and European textiles. The IMA was one of the first art institutions in the United States to collect textiles, and its 6000-piece collection is among the finest in this country.

American Conference on Oriental Rugs

The biennial meeting of the American Conference on Oriental Rugs, a gathering of hundreds of scholars, collectors and dealers from around the world is being held in Indianapolis from April 25-28, 2002, to coincide with the IMA's presentation of The Fabric of Moroccan Life.


A fully illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition. The 300-page hardbound publication will feature new research and essays from preeminent international scholars.


The suggested donation for the exhibition is $5 for adults, $4 for students and seniors. Children 12 and under are admitted free. Admission to the permanent collection and Museum grounds is free.

Indianapolis Museum of Art Expansion

The Indianapolis Museum of Art is embarking on an ambitious expansion that will create dramatic new public spaces, galleries and an enriched experience for its visitors. The IMA will extend its main building complex, creating additional exhibition space, new areas for educational programs and an expanded library. This enhanced facility-together with the new 100-acre Fairbanks Art & Nature Park opening in 2004, and the restored historic home of the J.K. Lilly Jr. estate, Oldfields, opening in 2002-will provide three distinct art experiences for visitors. The planned expansion will also incorporate a range of new visitor amenities and is scheduled for completion in 2005.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art is among the largest general art museums in the United States. Situated on 152 acres, the IMA features significant collections of African, American, Asian, European, contemporary and decorative art, including paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings and photographs, textiles and costumes. Throughout the construction period, the Museum will be open and will continue to mount exciting presentations from its vast permanent collection.

Tour Information

To obtain information about group tour packages, contact the IMA group tourism coordinator at 317.920.2679. Except for group tours, advance ticketing is not necessary. To arrange for school group tours, call 317.920.2649.

General Information

The Indianapolis Museum of Art, 1200 W. 38th Street, is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. The Museum is closed Mondays and Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's days. For more information, call 317.923.1331.

Support has been provided by the Arts Council of Indianapolis and the City of Indianapolis, the Indiana Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts.


Joyce L. Lorenz
PR & Marketing Manager
Indianapolis Museum of Art
1200 West 38th Street
Indianapolis, IN 46208

P 317.923.1331, ext. 238
F 317.920.2671

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