GLOVES ON VOLCANOS: Pandemic Fashion Exhibition on Tenerife

Based on more-please response to my guest column for Forbes (Full Stream Ahead: How the Arts Industry Is Coping in 2021) I want to share nine exhibition stories. First up, welcome to La Laguna on Tenerife.

February 2021. I was still processing the cruel irony of coronavirus shutting down Florence Nightingale Museum in London (dedicated to the life and legacy of this medical frontline pioneer). So when I saw that Tenerife Museum of History is hosting a special exhibition about … gloves, I was immediately intrigued both as a fashion media professional and a pandemic so-far-survivor. Personal Protective Equipment, broadly, are articles of clothing and accessories, after all. I put my mask on, got on the socially distanced bus, and went to see “Quirotecas: gloves from the archives”.

Museum itself is in a beautiful historic residence with balconies for days and hardwood everything. I would have gladly bought a ticket just to support the polishing budget! Admission was free. Getting to the special collections area one got to walk through Tenerife’s crafts-past, including its famed cobbling (land of volcanic mountaineers and transatlantic sailors) and natural textile dying (from cochinilla insects feasting on cacti) and prized cockfighting. While not a craft, cockfighting was right there and I could not not look at it. Moving on.

Gloves have acquired fashion sensibility relatively late compared to other common accessories. Typically, they have been associated with particular tough trades or rough sports. They did not even make it into hospitals until 1894. To give you an idea of how recent that is… it’s the same year that Coca-Cola was first bottled, Billboard magazine was launched, and motion picture film got patented. Wild what we take for granted, isn’t it? … Back to the exhibition. Its small well-curated selection “touched” on major themes, including introduction of synthetic textiles into craftsmanship traditionally focused on silk, lace, and leather, fetishization of gloves in pop culture, and various technical elements of gloves manufacturing. I really loved the tech specs drawings!

Check your local museums programming. How are they addressing the pandemic? For all the talk of “unprecedentedness”, humans actually do have a long history of dealing with health crises. Let me know of similar/related exhibitions in your area. I’d love to connect the Post-Paris dots!

NINE EXHIBITION STORIES: Malaga – Brno – Valencia – Poznan – Carrion de Los Condes – Manises – TBD

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