Cotton: Global Threads
Cotton: Global Threads, a major new exhibition exploring the history of cotton, opens at the Whitworth Art Gallery this month (until 13 May)
This promises to be an excellent show, curated by the Whitworth’s Jennifer Harris, and showcasing some of the stars from the museum’s textile galleries as well as some specially commissioned new pieces. Commissions include the likes of Yinka Shonibare, Liz Rideal and Lubaina Himid who take on the exhibition’s themes in a variety of different and challenging installations. As you would expect, the show looks at the design and visual impact of cotton, showcasing exotic printed cottons from 17th century India alongside later European and African examples. It also explores its manufacture, how the industry developed with centres of production shifting from India to Western Europe with the advent of the Industrial Revolution, highlighting Lancashire’s cotton producing heyday, before moving on to contemporary China and the US. But what you don’t normally get in a textile exhibition is the fascinating section on ethics, and this is where the seamier side of the cotton industry gets examined, including issues such as the slave trade (and its modern day incarnation, the sweat shop) and the environmental impact of the industry.