Prato’s textile museum (Museo del Tessuto) says ‘hello’ to contemporary art and modern museum practise with the exhibit ‘Il Tessuto è Tutto‘ (Fabric is Everything). With this exhibit, that opened in March 2012, the museum broke in a new contemporary space that is over 1000 square meters large – 5 times the previous area dedicated to contemporary textiles. The show presents contemporary, local textile design as art through sculptural installations that include sound and light, and that explicitly invite the visitor to touch the works.

The exhibit takes up almost the whole first floor of the museum. Coming up the stairs, you enter a large room with a permanent collection displayed on either side, but already in this room are gigantic lamps made of knitwear, and a table with sample books from historic archives (the only thing that you cannot touch, and of course I made that mistake…).

You enter into a large darkened room and a series of micro-displays are available to you, like the forest of wools made to look like vines, that you can touch and walk through. A speaker hanging above makes forest noises.

Down one side of this room is an impactful burberry-type wall display, while in the center are poufs made of jacket fabric. It’s nice that you can sit down and just hang out in this space, maybe use the museum wifi (ask for a password downstairs).

At the end of this room is an area with hanging fabrics in a serpentine path that is accented, above, with led lighting and blown around with fans. These delicate fabrics invite you to touch and discover their different textures and fabrication techniques. On the back wall are panels of faux fur that are a lot of fun! Here’s a photo of my friend Anna feeling up the wall.

Another large room extends to your left, where there’s a row of fabulous ‘scarves’ – the best of this Spring’s collection of fashion fabrics arranged in rainbow. Here is a photo of me sticking my little head through the display!

On the right is a gigantic book of samples, like what fabric designers use to show the year’s collection to clients.

In the center of this room are hanging houses that look like they’re made of lace; actually they are some super high tech plastic. You can walk inside all of these. As you can imagine, kids just love this aspect of the show!

The Museo del Tessuto is taking a step towards a dialogue with more contemporary aspects of the city – current production of textiles rather than the dusty past. The statement ‘fabric is everything’ refers to the importance of this production in what follows in the fashion and home décor industries and its potential also beyond. It is not meant to mean that fabric is everything to Prato, although its production is unquestionably essential to the economy of this city, one that has been crippled in recent years due to external competition and the general economic crisis. But the museum wants to suggest that through excellence in fabrics, and through a new way of promoting them – as high fashion, as art, as objects of value in their own right – this is how the city might redeem itself. The show also has potential for tourism, as it is interesting to anyone who likes contemporary art, fashion, or interactive museum experiences.

The lovely video below gives you a sense of just how interactive it is.

The show has punchy graphics, has all wall text also in English, and the museum is very active on facebook, youtube and twitter.

Il Tessuto è Tutto – Fabric is Everything
March 11 to September 9 2012
Museo del Tessuto di Prato
Via Santa Chiara 24

Opening hours:
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday 10 am – 3 pm
Saturday 10 am – 7 pm

on Sundays it is FREE, open 3-7 pm
Closed Tuesday

Disclaimer: Flod, the company I work for, has helped the museum with the graphics and communications of this exhibit.

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