DMA Insight

The Steven G. Alpert Collection of Indonesian Textiles, Collector's Statement

People sometimes ask the inevitable question of why I found Indonesia so attractive in the first place. Horace Walpole, the 18th century author and art connoisseur, would have aptly answered the question for me with a simple shrug and a word of his own coinage, "serendipity." Encountering Indonesia and its textile traditions for the first time was a grand, though unsought for, discovery of complete accident.

In 1970, I was en route to a year of studying Polynesian ethnography in New Zealand. An incidental side trip to the Batak region of North Sumatra provided a glimpse of Indonesian tribal tradition, and resulted in my first purchases of Indonesian art. After graduating from Wesleyan University, I returned to Indonesia, and among my business activities there, began to build this collection.

Whenever possible, an attempt was made to collect the older, finer examples of ceremonial textiles that most clearly reflected the spirit and artistic intensity of the archaic Indonesians. My appreciation for this material naturally became more refined while searching out those antique pieces which displayed the strongest sense of imagination, a heightened spiritual concentration, and technical expertise. As a field collector, the joy of collecting was enhanced by the opportunity of being involved with a challenging country of ethnic diversity and a myriad of traditions.

I was privileged to know some of the last traditional warriors and their female counterparts, the great weavers. Face to face it was impossible to escape the realization that one was witnessing an era of poignant change. More than the individual skills, I will always remember the wisdom, humor, and dignity that belong to those who know that the way of their ancestors' world is passing away forever.

As the collection grew and matured, it became the subject of great interest to other people, who hoped someday it might be viewed by a larger audience. A deep sense of personal pleasure exists knowing that this collection will reside permanently in the Dallas Museum of Art. I would like to extend my appreciation to the McDermott Foundation, and to Mrs. Margaret McDermott, whose attentive interest and generosity have allowed the collection to find an outstanding home.

I would also like to acknowledge the weavers, their mothers, grandmothers, and all those that came before them, who created, protected, and cherished these marvelous textiles. It is hoped that to some small measure this collection is a visual testament to their collective tenacity and genius.

Excerpt from

Steven G. Alpert, "Collector's Statement," in Selections from the Steven G. Alpert Collection of Indonesian Textiles (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art, 1984), n.p.