March 23, 2019

Losing the Compass: Textiles at White Cube Mason’s Yard

Losing the Compass, a textile exhibition by a diverse selection of known and unknown artists, curated by Scott Cameron Weaver and Mathieu Paris, is being exhibited at White Cube Mason’s Yard from 8th October 2015 to 9th January 2016.

This show continues previous art discussions related to the history and significance of textiles. From carpets to quilts, the creation of these items were often seen as a female endeavour with skills and possessions passed down from generation to generation. We are exposed to the argument between art and craft, gender and allowing these processes to be seen as a legitimate outlet for creativity.

Hidden behind the materials and finished products of the ‘unknown’ artists are questions of authorship, economy, political and personal histories as well as questioning the origin of production. Like the works of Yinka Shonibare, the pieces here highlight the confusion of identity and our perception of it.

This symbolic exhibition presents a mixture of 19th century quilts by unknown artists and more contemporary works, highlighting what we see as domestic craft and what we see as art. Such objects are framed and hung while others are laid out on the floor, or carefully positioned on steps to reveal their material quality and pattern. The most beautifully presented pieces are three quilts which are hung to reveal their folds, weight and texture. By not being draped over a bed, but by being displayed in this way, we can appreciate the materials and ornamental nature of this practical item too.

I think this is a good bitesize exhibition, suitable for those who are new to considering textiles and also an interesting one for those who wish to continue their exploration. Having the textiles in a white cube setting helps highlight the way we typically view domestic items. However, for those new to art or galleries of this style, definitely pick up a press release on entry.

The good news is the exhibition is free and easy to get to. Sidling down an alley next to a pub you’ll enter a beautiful courtyard with a futuristic cube in the middle of it. Like Narnia or Wonderland it has a secret atmosphere and will make you feel as if you are experiencing the unexplored side to London – you’re not, but you will want to tell everyone about it anyway.

A massive downside was one member of staff texting during my whole visit while, unsurprisingly, ignoring a member of public talking on their phone. If you want visitors to take the work seriously, which I assume they do as the curators and artists have worked hard to produce this show, then the gallery staff need to show respect to the work too.

White Cube Mason’s Yard SW1Y 6BU, is open Tuesday – Saturday, 10am – 6pm.

Until 9th January

For more information on this exhibition and the artists represented please visit

By Helen Shewry

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