Patterns of Trade: Indian Textiles For Export, 1400–1900 at the Asian Civilisations Museum

In December 2009, on a layover in Singapore, we visited the Asian Civilizations Museum. My favorite gallery was (and is) Gallery 1: The Singapore River Gallery. I’m deeply interested in the history of Singapore as city and this permanent collection provides some insight into the obvious intersections between trade and the growth of this city-state.

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The other day, while on a walk along the river, I decided to take a break and check out Patterns of Trade: Indian Textiles For Export, 1400–1900The exhibition [showcases] over 70 types of textile pieces exported from India to Southeast Asia and Europe for over 500-600 years, until the 19th century. The textiles, which were acquired in 2009 from American collector Roger Hollander’s private collection, [are] seen publicly for the first time. ‘Gauri [Krishnan] and I saw the collection a year and a half before acquisition and we were both flabbergasted that such a collection was still available,’ says [David] Henkel. There are, he says, just half a dozen such collections around the world.

I admit, I do know a lot about South Asian textiles, but even I was captivated by footage taken in India documenting ancient techniques for weaving and pattern-making, as well as the dye samples and tools on display.

This exquisite collection, I think, rivals The Victoria and Albert Museum’s collection of Indian textiles. I hope that Asian Civilizations Museum will, one day, display all the complete collection of 307 artifacts in its glory. (Or at least create an online archive for those of us who have a fondness for fabric!)

(Additional credits: Images via the Asian Civilizations Museum.)

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