‘The Cloth that Changed the World’ opens at the ROM on September 12

FOR the first time in 50 years, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)’s world-renowned collection of Indian chintz will be presented to the public in a new original exhibition opening September 12. The Cloth that Changed the World: India’s Painted and Printed Cottons celebrates the technical mastery, creativity, and far-reaching influence of India’s vividly painted and printed textiles, from the early origins of dyeing and weaving, to the artisans working today. On display through to Fall 2021, this extraordinary exhibition presents 20 recognized masterworks alongside 10 new acquisitions and rare loans from prestigious international collections. 

“India has given the world many extraordinary fashions, but none so influential as its painted and printed cottons, known as Indian chintz,” says Dr. Sarah Fee, the exhibition’s lead curator and the ROM’s Senior Curator, Global Fashion & Textiles. “These beautifully coloured and patterned textiles shaped global human history, art and industry in ways that continue to influence us today.”  

On view in the Patricia Harris Gallery of Textiles & Costume, The Cloth that Changed the World: India’s Painted and Printed Cottons presents the splendour of Indian chintz from the 15th century to today. The exhibition also explores the consequences of global consumer desire for the textile, from its role in inspiring Europe’s Industrial Revolution and the intensification of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, to present-day environmental concerns. 

Originally set to open in April 2020, The Cloth that Changed the World was put on hold while the Museum was closed due to COVID-19. It is generously supported by Exhibition Patron ROM Friends of Textiles and Costume & Burnham Brett Endowment Fund. 

Visitors can enhance their exhibition experience with a new slate of #ROMatHome online programming, including: 

Re-invented: Contemporary Fashion, Historic Design

Wednesday, September 9, 4 p.m.  

Join ROM’s Dan Mishra Curator of South Asian Art & Culture Deepali Dewan in a conversation with Montreal-born, New Delhi-based designer and author Rashmi Varma on the evolution of her self-named women’s wear label that brings together contemporary design and global fashion with a love for artisanal craft and historical forms of South Asian visual culture. 

Ask ROM Anything with Dr. Sarah Fee

Thursday, September 10, 10 a.m.
The exhibition’s lead curator and the ROM’s Senior Curator, Global Fashion & Textiles Dr. Sarah Fee will answer viewers’ questions live on the ROM’s Instagram account (@ROMToronto). 

Experts and Objects with Dr. Sarah Fee
Wednesday, September 16, 10 a.m.
Dr. Sarah Fee shares her fascinating insights into select objects in the ongoing series Experts and Objects. 

Also on display is Florals: Desire and Design, a companion installation open now in the European Special Exhibitions Gallery on the third floor, which examines the connection between Indian chintz, Europe’s decorative arts and the birth of botanic science. Both are included with Museum admission.

The exhibition’s companion book Cloth that Changed the World: The Art and Fashion of Indian Chintz further delves into the fascinating tales behind this influential textile. This collection of essays by world-renowned experts isedited by Dr. Fee and published by ROM and Yale University Press, with the generous support of the Louise Hawley Stone Charitable Trust. 

Visiting the ROM this summer
Visitors can explore the ROM’s spacious galleries and permanent collections in a welcoming and safe environment, with new health and safety measures in place. To help ensure physical distancing and a comfortable Museum experience, the ROM is limiting the number of admissions to the Museum per day, and visitors are asked to pre-book timed-entry tickets online.

ROM Visitor Guidelines
Following the Province of Ontario’s public health recommendations, the ROM has implemented protocols and operational changes to help ensure an enjoyable and safe Museum experience. Full details on what to expect when visiting the ROM are found at rom.on.ca/welcomeback, and guidelines are outlined onsite at the Museum:  

  • Visitors must book timed tickets online in advance of their visit. The ROM is limiting the number of visitors in gallery spaces to help ensure physical distancing is maintained.  
  • Visitors are required to wear face masks and respect physical distancing, as per municipal regulations. ROM staff are also wearing face masks.  
  • The ROM is open from Wednesday to Sunday, 10:00 am to 5:30 pm. These new temporary hours of operation will be in effect until further notice.  
  • Each gallery area, elevators, and stairwells will have strict capacity limits and marked pathways to help maintain physical distancing.   
  • Frequent, rigorous cleaning and enhanced disinfecting measures are in place. 

    What’s Open & What’s Closed  

    ROM Boutique and Druxy’s ROM Café are open (11 a.m.- 4 p.m. daily). Temporary gallery closures include the Bat Cave, CIBC Discovery Gallery, Patrick and Barbara Keenan Family Gallery of Hands-on Biodiversity, and coat check, due to the number of touchable objects in the spaces. The ROM’s limited reopening does not currently include camps, guided and spot tours (inside or outside the Museum), school-based visits, or event-space rentals. All hours and temporary closures are subject to change.