NEW YORK, NY – Feathered Walls – Hangings from Ancient Peru, an installation comprising 12 impressive feather panels—probably hangings—made by the Wari peoples of southern Peru between about 700 and 1000 will go on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, beginning September 16. Made of finely woven cotton cloth and measuring roughly seven by two feet on average, the panels are covered completely with the small iridescent body feathers of the blue and yellow macaw in a bold design of large rectangles. They rank among the most luxurious and unusual works created by textile artists in Peru prior to the Spanish conquest in 1532.
The exhibition is made possible by the Friends of the Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas.
The panels were reportedly part of a group of 96 excavated in 1943 by local people near the village of La Victoria in the Ocoña Valley, where it joins with the Churunga Valley on the far south coast of Peru. The find is considered the largest discovery of feather arts in ancient Peru. Said to have been found rolled up in large ceramic jars decorated with religious iconography, many of the panels are remarkably well preserved.
Drawn from the Metropolitan Museum’s own collection—the panels were acquired by Nelson A. Rockefeller in the 1950s and bequeathed to the Met in 1979—as well as two loans, these icons of ancient Peruvian textile art will be installed on the 88-foot-long wall between the Museum’s ancient South American art galleries and the galleries for modern and contemporary art. Their arrangement on the wall may be close to the way they were displayed in ancient times on special ceremonial occasions, covering the rough, gray stone walls of Wari structures, and imbuing them with elegance and luxuriousness. The minimalist design on the panels creates a striking visual connection between the art of the ancient Americas and modernism. Recently obtained information on the excavation of the panels, previously unreported in the English-language literature, sheds new light on their original burial context and will be part of the display. The panels and the many feather pieces illustrated in Peruvian Featherworks, a book published by the Metropolitan Museum in 2012, speak eloquently of the rich imagination and remarkable ingenuity of ancient Peruvian textile artists.
The installation is organized by Heidi King, Senior Research Associate in the Metropolitan Museum’s Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas.
The installation will be featured on the Museum’s website at www.metmuseum.org.