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New Pathways into Quilt History written by Kimberly Wulfert, www.antiquequiltdating.com

The Year of the Quilt Extravaganza in NYC

Welcome to the Year of the Quilt, the American Folk Art Museum’s celebration of a glorious American art form.

Vortex quilt
Artist unidentified
United States; 1890-1910
Pieced and appliquéd cotton; 80 x 82"
Collection of Joanna S. Rose
Photograph by Gavin Ashworth

Click to enlarge.

Infinite Variety: Three Centuries of Red and White Quilts will cap the American Folk Art Museum's "Year of the Quilt. 

Quilts: Masterworks from the American Folk Art Museum, is a two-part exhibition.  The first installation is currently on view through April 24, 2011and the second from May 10 to October 16, 2011.

Super Stars: Quilts from the Collection, at the museum's branch location at Lincoln Square is the exhibition from November 16, 2010 - September 25, 2011.

American Folk Art Museum Presents

Infinite Variety: Three Centuries of Red and White Quilts

Unprecedented Quilt Extravaganza at Park Avenue Armory

Highlight of the Museum's Year of the Quilt

March 25 to March 30, 2011


For six days in March, the historic Park Avenue Armory will be transformed into a glorious display of color and design when the American Folk Art Museum presents Infinite Variety: Three Centuries of Red and White Quilts.  More than 650 red and white American textiles, the largest quilt exhibition ever presented in New York City, are on loan from Joanna Rose, a private New York collector. Open free to the public, this extraordinary assemblage will be dramatically installed in the Armory's 55,000-square-foot Wade Thompson Drill Hall from March 25 to March 30, 2011.


The American Folk Art Museum is taking another important step in expanding and reaching new audiences.  Through this exhibition and related educational programming the museum continues to augment its core mission and develop new ways of attracting visitors.  Since admission to the quilt exhibition is free, it represents a special gift to the people of New York City and beyond," comments Maria Ann Conelli, executive director, American Folk Art Museum.  


I am also pleased to announce another significant gift.  The collector has generously decided to donate a number of quilts to the museum. Fifty of the most beautiful and historically significant quilts will be selected by our curators," continues Ms. Conelli.


This superb collection is astonishing not only because of the sheer number of red and white textiles but also because no two are exactly alike.  Spanning three hundred years, the designs range from dazzling optical effects to fanciful mazes to dynamic zigzag lightning bolts.  The patterns are appliquéd or pieced in red on a white ground or white on a red background.  The exhibition is organized by guest curator Elizabeth V. Warren, a leading authority on quilts and trustee of the American Folk Art Museum, and Stacy C. Hollander, project director and the museum's senior curator.


It is an honor to be involved with this amazing exhibition and it will be a pleasure to select examples of the quilts for the museum's permanent collection.  We have known that many red and white quilts were made during the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries, but this large collection allows us to study a much longer period of creativity using this color scheme and a much wider scope of design than was ever envisioned," says Ms. Warren.  Research on the collection is ongoing and plans are to produce a book and arrange a worldwide traveling exhibition.


The innovative and exciting display of the 650 quilts in the Armory space has been created by the award-winning New York City exhibition design firm Thinc Design.  Defying gravity, the quilts appear to spiral in mid-air filling the enormous volume of the Drill Hall and creating circular pavilions that invite visitors to experience the quilts in a three-dimensional environment. Highlighted quilts will be arranged on viewing platforms for closer appreciation.  Incorporated into the floor-to-ceiling design will be strategically placed benches and ottomans. A cafe and Museum Shop will be available.


The exhibition will be accompanied by a complement of daily educational events and programs for adults and children that will be informative and appealing to experienced quilters, passionate collectors, and all those interested in art, design, folk art, Americana, and American history.


Super Stars: Quilts from the Collection
The exhibition “Super Stars” illuminates one theme in the textile masterpieces
being displayed this year from their collection.
November 16, 2010 - September 25, 2011


"Quiltmakers have always sought inspiration from the world around them, introducing the outdoors into the domestic interior through bedcovers that may reflect the colors of the landscape, the imagery of flowers in a garden, or animal and insect life. Stars, some of the most important elements of the natural world, are also a beloved and enduring motif in American quilts. Stars appeared in pieced bedcovers as early as the eighteenth century and remain popular with quilt artists today. Their ethereal light has guided nighttime travelers on sea and on land; their faraway presence has become the stuff of dreams when pieced, appliquéd, or embroidered into the form of a quilt. “Super Stars” highlights the dazzling diversity of this variable pattern as interpreted through more than one hundred years of quilt artistry.” Stacy C. Hollander, Senior Curator.

Major support for programs and exhibitions at the museum’s branch location at Lincoln Square is provided by Joyce Berger Cowin.

Learn much more about stars seen on quilts and how they changed through time,  from Stacy Hollander: Stars on Quilts


QUILTS: Masterworks
from the American Folk Art Museum

An impressive and comprehensive collection of glorious quilts
on display at the main museum

The first installment is on view from: October 5, 2010 to April 24, 2011,
and the second from May 10 to October 16, 2011


QUILTS features dazzling textiles from the museum's impressive and comprehensive collection.  Characterized by a mastery of design, extraordinary color combinations, and innovative use of fabrics, these quilts reflect a spirit and energy that make them uniquely American. The exhibition focuses on the visual power and historic importance of this artistic tradition and the many skillful women who gave it shape.

Selected by guest curator Elizabeth V. Warren, each quilt was chosen as a glorious example of its time, style, and technique.  The inaugural presentation brings together approximately 35 major quilts drawn from the museum's holdings, some of which are significant new acquisitions and are on view for the first time. Also included are "old favorites," the recognized cornerstones of the collection, as well as several quilts that have rarely been exhibited.  They will be installed on three floors of the museum.

The museum's preeminent collection includes all the primary forms and designs, from Tree of Life, a 1796 elaborately stuffed and corded whitework to More is More, a 1996 kaleidoscope quilt by renowned quilt artist Paula Nadelstern.  Displaying examples from the major quiltmaking traditions, there are whole cloth, chintz, signature and album quilts; appliqué and log cabin quilts; Victorian "show" quilts; Amish quilts; Colonial revival and "kit" quilts; African American quilts; and contemporary quilts.

Among the quilts on exhibition for the first time are Slashed Star Quilt, featuring an unusual design motif; Log Cabin Quilt, Courthouse Steps Variation; Pieced Quilt, one of the many special bedcovers from Cyril I. Nelson's gift; Sunflowers and Vine Border, an early 19th century pieced and appliquéd quilt; and a group of doll quilts. Two noteworthy bedcovers of great beauty and historical importance that have rarely been exhibited are the Reiter Family Album Quilt and the Hewson Center Quilt with Multiple Border.

Several iconic quilts—such as the Bird of Paradise, the Harlequin Medallion Quilt, Double Wedding Ring, and the Flag Quilt—demonstrate the quality and range of the collection.

Textiles were among the most valued family possessions until well into the nineteenth century. Based on the rarity of the fabrics, the fine workmanship, and their well-preserved condition, it is clear that most of the historic quilts in the museum's collection are examples of "best" bedcovers, saved for use on special occasions or when company visited," notes Ms. Warren.


A lavishly illustrated, full-color book, QUILTS, written by Ms. Warren, with a foreword by Martha Stewart, and published by Rizzoli in association with the American Folk Art Museum accompanies the two-part exhibition. The book documents the 200 most important examples from the museum's esteemed collection.

The American Folk Art Museum has played an unparalleled role in advocating for quilts and broadening the discourse of this form within the larger picture of American art. In 1996, the first complete catalog of the museum's quilt collection was published. Glorious American Quilts: The Quilt Collection of the Museum of American Folk Art, written by Elizabeth V. Warren and Sharon L. Eistenstat, counted 398 quilts in the museum's holdings at that time.  In the years since, the collection has grown in importance and breadth. Almost one hundred prominent quilts have entered the collection, very few of which have, up until now, been on public view, written about, or reproduced in print.


Elizabeth Warren writes more about the history of quilts and the Masterpiece exhibits: Quilts: Masterworks.


American Folk Art Museum
45 West 53 Street, New York, NY 10019, 212/265-1040


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© 2008 - 2015 Kimberly Wulfert, PhD. Absolutely no copies, reprints, use of photos or text are permitted for commercial or online use. One personal copy for study purposes is permitted.

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