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Krefeld: Silk and Velvet and Modern Art

Krefeld – who would ever think of visiting? Krefeld is an industrial town on the edge of the Ruhr district, already on the left bank of the Rhine. A city without any sights worth mentioning, it seems. A city where even the local football club is named after a suburb not the city itself: KFC Uerdingen 05, currently playing in 3rd league.

However, this city has two remarkable Off the beaten path attractions. I had no idea that they existed, until we were taken there on an excursion during one of those conferences at the catholic academy in Münster. Surprise, surprise!

1. Silk and Velvet


Krefeld is Germany's most important centre of textile industry. Till the late 18th century the town was hardly more than a big village. Then the weaving of brocade, velvet, finest fabrics from gold threads, silk and wool caused a boom and rapid growth of the town.


Haus der Seidenkultur (House of Silk Culture - the name's a bit unlucky) is a newly opened museum on the premises of the former parament manufacture Hubert Gotzes. The manufacture produced mostly textiles for the catholic church. After they had to close down in the mid-1990s, former workers founded an association and turned the manufacture with its original old Jacquard looms into a museum.
All details important for visitors are on their website: http://www.seidenkultur.de


The manufacture produced silk and gold brocades, velvet, and other precious fabrics which were then used to tailor church paraments. The 100-year-old half-automatic looms are still there and in operation. The guided tours are done by retired weavers, patroneurs and other ex-employees who present all stages of the traditional craft of Jacquard weaving. The Jacquard loom is a mechanical, half-automatic loom that was invented by Joseph-Marie Jacquard in the early 19th century. The weaving of patterned fabric, which till then had required a second worker (usually a child) pulling the strings, became more efficient due to his invention.

They also make modern fashion accessoires from these fabrics that can be bought in a shop on site and also online. I got a tie for my father, in the "paradise pattern" described below, woven in different shades of silver and grey. It is truly elegant, and I have seen him wearing it on various formal occasions.

We are observing the formation of the so-called paradise pattern, a design that was used in 14th century Italy but actually originates from China. It shows pairs of eagles and swans, the sun and flower ornaments. The pattern was adopted by the manufacture and used for paraments.

Translating the pattern into weaving is a complicated procedure. First, the design is painted as a so-called Patrone, a design on chequered paper where each field corresponds with one crossing of threads. This work is the job of the Patroneur, a specialized profession.

The pattern is then transferred into cardboard punchcards. Each card equals one weft thread. The holes in the cards define which warp thread is lifted and which one stays low, i.e. if the weft will be above or underneath, to form the pattern.

Adjusting the warp on the loom for a complicated pattern like this is a job that requires several days before the weaver can actually start weaving.

This here is probably going to be a stola.

The catholic palette: The shelf contains yarn in the liturgical colours of the catholic church: red, green, violet, white/gold and black.

Gold brocade in stag pattern on the loom

2. Church of Pax Christi, Krefeld-Oppum: Art Collection In Suburbia


Krefeld's most astonishing collection of contemporary art, including lots of big names, is to be found... in a catholic parish church in the suburb of Oppum.

A plain and modest 1970s brick church in suburbia - who would expect a remarkable collection of late 20th century and contemporary art here, including many big names from Beuys to Uecker?


Pax Christi, the catholic parish church in Krefeld-Oppum, is a completely normal suburban parish with a community of ordinary people - and an energetic priest who is in touch with both artists and galleries and money sources. In the early 1980s he started his collection whichin 2008 consisted of 32 works of art. And counting, I suppose. These are of highest quality, from altar, crucifix and baptismal font to sculptures, reliefs, paintings and drawings.

Crucifix by Ewald Mataré (before 1939), altar by Ulrich Rückriem (1981)
An interesting effect is created by the lighting: the triple shadow of the cross recalls the three crosses of Golgatha.

Most of these works were bought by the community with the help of sponsors and are their property. People have learned to live with contemporary art, although to some of them this must have been difficult at first. The church, the baptismal chapel, and the adjacent rooms of the community centre as well as the garden behind the building are full of art works. Nevertheless the church is no museum, although it can be visited as one.
I can show but a selection of what they have, which includes some of the biggest names, but is also based on personal taste.

Joseph Beuys: Samurai sword (1982)

Felix Droese: Mother – Lenten Cloth (1981)

Klaus Rinke: Gate to Eternity (1990)
This was my favourite piece. The polished black granite of the „Gate to Eternity“ reflects the 'here and now'. Those are the participants of the excursion sitting in the chairs of the church, listening more or less attentive. The reflection somehow appears surreal, though. It looks as if the gate, despite being firmly closed, allows a glimpse of 'beyond'.

Altar in the baptismal chapel with
Jürgen Paatz: Untitled (round cloth, 1974)
Thomas Virnich: Cross stone (1993)

Barbara Heinisch: Easter (1980)

Chihiro Shimotani: X (Commandmend Boards, 1980)

Günther Uecker: Chichicastenango (1980)

Garden behind church and parish community centre, with Klaus Simon: Darkened over (1988)

Enrique Asensi: Untitled (Triptychon, 2000)

Magdalena Jetelová: Steep track (2005)
Stairway to heaven?

Posted by Kathrin_E 04:42 Archived in Germany Tagged churches art museum nordrhein-westfalen ruhrgebiet

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The pieces of silk look beautiful.

by irenevt

Both the silk weaving and the contemporary art in the church look wonderful. What great 'hidden' places to have discovered!

by ToonSarah

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