It’s everywhere, you’re probably wearing it right now and the chances are you sleep in it every night. Cotton isn’t just a commodity, from the cotton fields to TopShop it is the one true witness to the history of the world and is now the subject of a major exhibition at the Whitworth Art Gallery.

I was lucky enough to attend the preview, notepad and obligatory bottle of free Cobra at hand I kicked off my tour with Early Global Trading Cotton, a brief history of the commoditization of textiles. Before moving on to the rest of the show Maria Balshaw and Jennifer Harris took to the stage to introduce the exhibition and thank everyone involved in putting it together. Both women made a point to tell the tale of their own garments, focusing on the brand and that all too important ‘made in’ inscription, which made me very aware of my socks, a high street purchase no less – probably unethically sourced. It became quite clear that this exhibition aims to educate the public about cotton industry, as Jennifer said cotton is and will ‘always be about the money’.

Speech over I set about the exhibition eager to learn more about the global commodity. From African video installations to up-cycling there was an inescapable transcontinental feel to the exhibition. Anne Wilson’s ‘Local Industry Cloth Walking the Warp Manchester’ stood out for me it takes pride of place at the heart of the Whitworth Gallery and encapsulates the exhibition quite fittingly. Wilson’s woven threads reminded me of DNA, after all, cotton is that all important strand that ties the world together and the exhibition narrates its epic journey from a mere commodity to a way of life as seen through: video installations, interactive workshops, canvases, photography, sculpture and textiles.


Cotton: Global Threads is the name, educating you about cotton is its game, a fierce contender in the cultural Olympics the show runs until the 13th May and is worth a visit.

Photos courtsey of Cotton: Global Threads and Pixie Freeman