Focus On

Denim – stylish, practical, timeless

Italiano (Italian)

Blue fabric with a history
17 October 2020 – 5 April 2021
Basel, Switzerland

In this exhibition, which features approximately 125 objects, visitors are taken on a journey through the facets of this fascinating material. This special exhibition was created in collaboration with Ms. Liza Snook from the Virtual Shoe Museum in The Hague. We have succeeded in collecting and bringing together items on loan from various European museums, private collectors and installations from galleries and artists all over the world. The exhibition can only be seen in this form in Basel.

Painting A Meal with a Woman and Two Children, Painter: The Master of the Blue Jeans, Italy, late 17th century, Lender/photo: Gallery Canesso, Paris (France)

Denim is an essential part of many people’s basic wardrobe. Almost everyone owns at least one denim item. Today, however, denim is much more than just a fabric for clothing. One might think that denim and art have nothing to do with each other. Far from it. Many artists around the world have discovered denim as a material in its own right. This unique special exhibition shows the versatility and history of this popular material. It includes paintings by The Master of the Blue Jeans from the end of the late 17th century, jeans, denim jackets, bags, shoes, furniture and everyday objects, as well as sculptures or installations such as The Secret Garden by Ian Berry and the Panthers by Afran (Milan Art & Events Center).

The most widely used material in the world has a fascinating history that probably began in Italy before reaching America and its gold miners and movie stars. Have you ever wondered who invented the material from which the jeans you wear every day are produced? The story is quite captivating and there is an ongoing dispute between Italy and France about which city this hard-wearing fabric was born in. Now the most famous and most widely used material in the world, denim soon went from being a fabric for workwear to the undisputed star of contemporary fashion.

Sculpture Blue Panther, Artist: Afran, Italy, 2017, Lender/photo: Milan Art & Events Center (MA-EC)

But what are jeans actually made of and where does the name come from? De Nîmes or rather Gênes? Over the years, historians have identified two fabrics outside the United States that could be the precursors of jeans: a durable fabric from the southern French city of Nîmes, from which the name denim is said to derive, and a cotton fabric from Genoa, Italy, which may have led to the English word jeans evolving from city’s name as pronounced in French, Gênes. However, there is no historical evidence for either explanation.

It has been more than a hundred years since blue jeans were invented as practical and robust work trousers. Nobody could have imagined it back then, and certainly didn’t plan for it to happen, but blue denim trousers have become a fashion item. Although they are newly styled and redesigned every year, the trousers worn by gold miners and cowboys have retained their most important features. They are comfortable and durable. But blue jeans did not just become trendy clothing, they are also considered a cult object. Because of their history, they have already served as a status symbol for a wide variety of movements. Today they are a part of the standard wardrobe of both workers and their bosses. Even heads of state, models and actors pose in front of the cameras in this comfortable leg attire. Nowadays blue jeans are available for both men and women, and for almost every occasion.


Photos has been taken from the Museum’s website and are covered by copyright

Maria Rosaria Roseo

English version Dopo una laurea in giurisprudenza e un’esperienza come coautrice di testi giuridici, ho scelto di dedicarmi all’attività di famiglia, che mi ha permesso di conciliare gli impegni lavorativi con quelli familiari di mamma. Nel 2013, per caso, ho conosciuto il quilting frequentando un corso. La passione per l’arte, soprattutto l’arte contemporanea, mi ha avvicinato sempre di più al settore dell’arte tessile che negli anni è diventata una vera e propria passione. Oggi dedico con entusiasmo parte del mio tempo al progetto di Emanuela D’Amico: ArteMorbida, grazie al quale, posso unire il piacere della scrittura al desiderio di contribuire, insieme a preziose collaborazioni, alla diffusione della conoscenza delle arti tessili e di raccontarne passato e presente attraverso gli occhi di alcuni dei più noti artisti tessili del panorama italiano e internazionale.