For Tent and Trade: Masterpieces of Turkmen Weaving

San Francisco, October 2007—The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco present a selection of premier examples from their world-class holdings of Turkmen rugs and textiles in For Tent and Trade: Masterpieces of Turkmen Weaving at the de Young Museum December 15, 2007, through September 7, 2008. During the past twenty-five years, FAMSF has developed the finest public collection of Turkmen carpets and other pile textiles outside Russia. This exhibition includes approximately 40 of the finest rugs, bags, and tent and animal trappings from these extensive holdings.

“Carpets and other pile textiles woven by the nomadic and semi-nomadic Turkmen tribes of Central Asia are some of the most widely admired and passionately collected of all ‘oriental’ rugs,” says Diane Mott, curator of the exhibition. “They are also among the most challenging to study and understand.” This exhibition provides an overview of Turkmen pile weaving and addresses some of the unanswered questions surrounding Turkmen carpets in addition to new findings that are changing our understanding of this complex weaving tradition.

The textiles included in For Tent and Trade come from the deserts and oases of Turkmenistan, northwest Iran, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan. Many are woven from the superb wool of the Saryja sheep, which are bred solely in this region. This exhibition provided the opportunity to contrast objects a woman traditionally wove for her dowry or domestic use with those made for the market or a prosperous khan or city dweller.

In spite of the fact that most of the weaving was done on simple horizontal looms staked to the ground, the work of the Turkmen is of consummate skill, artistic expression, and design. Although theirs is a region marked by centuries of political instability, carpet weaving endures as a vital part of the Turkmen culture.

Also on view are five striking mantles embroidered and worn by women of three different Turkmen tribes. All are masterpieces of Central Asian embroidery, on loan to the Museums from the Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf collection in New York.

Exhibition Organization
For Tent and Trade is organized by FAMSF and celebrates gifts from the principal donors who formed the carpet collection—H. McCoy Jones, Caroline McCoy-Jones, George and Marie Hecksher, and Wolfgang and Gisela Wiedersperg.

Exhibition Curator
Diane Mott, Curator of the Caroline and H. McCoy Jones Department of Textile Arts, is the curator of this exhibition. She was the curator of a number of exhibitions at the de Young on subjects ranging from the post-conquest textiles of the Andean highlands to silk ikats from Central Asia, and most recently, the Quilts of Gee’s Bend.