This exhibition marks the US debut of more than 150 examples of lace from the extensive collection of the Textilmuseum St. Gallen, Switzerland. It traces the development of lace from its sixteenth-century origins to the present—the first large-scale American exhibition in New York in 40 years to tell this story. An introduction addresses needle and bobbin techniques and the skill of female lacemakers who crafted this sought-after status symbol. As garments and portraits demonstrate, handmade lace was a signifier of power and wealth at the courts of Habsburg Spain, Bourbon France, as well as in the Spanish Americas, until it fell from favor in the wake of the French Revolution. In the early decades of the nineteenth century, lace regained its popularity and by mid-century, with mechanization and industrialization, it was readily accessible to a rapidly expanding middle-class market. The consumption of both hand- and machine-made lace reached its peak at the turn of the twentieth century. Contemporary couture closes the exhibition, revealing new innovations in lace production that will shape this global industry’s future.

Co-curated by Emma Cormack, Associate Curator, Bard Graduate Center; Ilona Kos, Curator, Textilmuseum St. Gallen; and Michele Majer, Assistant Professor, Bard Graduate Center.

Threads of Power: Lace from the Textilmuseum St. Gallen is organized by Bard Graduate Center and the Textilmuseum St. Gallen. The exhibition will open at Bard Graduate Center Gallery in New York in September 2022 and will be available to tour after closing in January 2023. If you would be interested in touring the exhibition to your institution, please fill out this form and the curatorial team will be in touch with more information.