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The Dilemma of Fragments

February 17, 2014 2 min read

Age destroys many materials. Textiles succumb.

They fade, they see wear and tear through usage, their dyes eat into the cloth slowly over time, and direct light exposure takes the life out of some. Some fibres, certain varieties of silk thread, simply do not have the strength to survive being bound into weaves for centuries.

And so, we see ‘fragments’ in textile collections. Pieces that are either small surviving segments of larger pieces or pieces that have damage or areas of debilitating wear in several areas. This is about the latter.

On a rainy day like this one, the gray colors my thinking and my perspective on everything. And so, as I prepare for the upcoming exhibition and put together the exhibits I am moved to melancholy by these fragments that have seen sunny days.

When such fragments are large  – saris, Phads, Palindons – and extend into meters, there are always patches within that are perfectly healthy and convey the beauty of the piece in its youth.  In some the healthy patches overshadow the rest of the piece either through the overall volume or through the supreme beauty contained.

And so they become dear to collectors.

The question I ask myself time and again, is should I cut it up and make it into a piece where only the beauty is seen? Should I not cut out the part that is dragging the entire piece down? Is it wise to destroy the original format that it was meant to be in? Surely torn / frayed / discolored edges can kill the piece – so why continue to hold it in place?

I wrote to an expert in London, A M, who sold me some of the best 15th century paintings in my collection and asked his opinion.

He said that a piece could be cut – but it would then become a ‘decorative’ article instead of a ‘collectible’. Another highly respected dealer from the Far-East opined that one must never destroy the format – it can always be done in the future. From his perspective as a dealer, he believes that the buyer can always cut it if he so wishes.

The irreversibility of the decision is a huge weight.

The uncertainty continues!

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