Baluchi Woven Treasures: The Boucher Collection

April 13-July 27, 1997

Baluchi Woven Treasures (installation view)

The Indianapolis Museum of Art showcased a major gift with the opening of the exhibition Baluchi Woven Treasures: The Boucher Collection, on April 13, 1997. The exhibition featured the 65 weavings of the Colonel Jeff W. Boucher Collection, given to the IMA in 1996 by Shirley Boucher, Colonel Boucher's widow. The weavings are made by the nomadic Baluchi people of Iran and Afghanistan. Baluchi weavings are known for their distinctive designs and colors, and the soft, lustrous wool from which they are woven.

The Boucher Collection is the largest of its kind in any public institution in the U.S., and includes rugs, saddlebags, pillows and other weavings created during the middle to late 19th century. Also included were 14 additional weavings on loan from Mrs. Boucher, making Baluchi Woven Treasures one of the largest and most comprehensive exhibitions of Baluchi weavings ever.

The Boucher Collection weavings represent hundreds, if not thousands, of years of the perfection of the art. Most were created on simple horizontal looms that could easily be dismantled and transported. The nomadic weavers used their own high quality wool and occasionally incorporated cotton and silk, obtained though trade, for special details.

Although the Baluchi people were dispersed over a wide geographical area, their weavings are stylistically cohesive and easily recognizable. In recent times, their weavings have become increasingly popular with collectors as a distinctive art form. Unique combinations of motifs, superb craftsmanship, weaving techniques, and use of colors and materials distinguish fine Baluchi textiles from those of other rug-producing peoples. The weavings that are considered the finest and most characteristic examples were created from the mid-19th to early 20th centuries in northeast Iran and northwest Afghanistan. This is precisely the time period and region to which most of the Boucher Collection works are attributed.

Weaving continues to be an essential skill that has an important social and economic role, but methods and motives are changing. These weavings are no longer created primarily for the Baluchi's own use but are developed for trade purposes. Much of the creativity and uniqueness has been lost to the introduction of new technologies and use of synthetic materials. The Boucher Collection enables museum visitors to view this art form at its peak, before advancing commercialization changed the nature of textiles.

Sponsorship of this exhibition was provided by American United Life Insurance Co.® (AUL), a OneAmerica® company. Additional support was provided by the Arts Council of Indianapolis and the City of Indianapolis; the Indiana Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

A catalog featuring the works in the exhibition is available for purchase online.

Baluchi Woven Treasures, Boucher (1989)

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