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Visit Scotland | Alba
Article published 08/02/2023

Tartan set to be a major event in 2023’s cultural calendar

Tartan (1 April 2023 – 14 January 2024) at V&A Dundee takes a radical new look at an instantly recognisable textile and pattern.

The V&A Dundee has announced, Tartan is set to be a major event in 2023’s cultural calendar and marks the 5th anniversary of Scotland’s design museum.

Celebrating tartan and its global impact, the exhibition explores how tartan has connected and divided communities worldwide, how it has embraced tradition, expressed revolt, and inspired great works of art as well as playful and provocative designs.

Tartan at V&A Dundee brings together a dazzling selection of more than 300 objects from over 80 lenders worldwide. It illustrates tartan’s universal and enduring appeal through iconic and everyday examples of:

  • fashion
  • architecture
  • graphic and product design
  • photography
  • furniture
  • glass and ceramics
  • film
  • performance and art

The exhibition features loans from across Scotland and around the world, including fashion designers Tate, V&A, National Museums of Scotland, National Trust for Scotland, National Theatre of Scotland, The Royal Collection, Fashion Museum Bath, the Highland Folk Museum and more. Many of which are being shown together in Scotland for the first time.

Tartan’s importance and enduring appeal as a textile has been utilised by designers throughout history, with some of fashion’s most innovative and rebellious minds exercising their refined cutting skills on tartan as a fabric.

This will be reflected with pieces by Chanel, Dior, Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood and Comme des Garçons, alongside the work of contemporary designers inspired by tartan including Grace Wales Bonner, Nicholas Daley, Louise Gray, Charles Jeffrey, Owen Snaith and Olubiyi Thomas.

The exhibition

The exhibition takes a radical new look at tartan, juxtaposing historical objects with the contemporary and is laid out in five sections where visitors can immerse themselves:

1Tartan and the Grid looks at the basic structure of tartan, introduced through textiles from around the world and positioning Tartan as a set of rules to be disrupted by designers.

2. Innovating Tartan looks at how tartan has always been at the intersection of technical innovation. Tartan has been translated into a pattern manifested in an incredible variety of materials, from natural to the synthetic, and even glass. It covers every imaginable surface, securing its position at the forefront of art and design.

3. In Tartan and Identity, tartan’s global fascination including its importance to diasporic communities is examined. Also, the appeal tartan has always held for those who express themselves through their clothing, from the traditional to the radical.

4. Tartan and Power shows how it disrupts and conforms. A force of pride and might, used to push boundaries or maintain control in war and peacetime.

5. Transcendental Tartan transports visitors to new worlds and possibilities in fashion, media, performance, and popular culture. The exhibition will look at tartan’s many narratives and how it is used by designers as a medium for myth and storytelling.  

In addition, V&A Dundee has asked the public to contribute to the exhibition. This will be The People’s Tartan, an eclectic selection of objects and memories that will spark recognition and nostalgia.

To commemorate this landmark exhibition, V&A Dundee has commissioned Kinloch Anderson to design a new tartan to be used as the museum's exclusive tartan and developed a range of merchandise in collaboration with designers in Scotland.

From the sublime through to the everyday - even the humble but iconic tartan shortbread tin has been considered.

Read the full press release on the V&A Dundee website, which has more detailed information on what will be included throughout the exhibition.

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