Textiles made with spider silk weave their magic at Oliver Hoare gallery's latest show

Gabriel Berner, 27 September 2021
Antiques Gazette

Established in 1986 by the late dealer Oliver Hoare and run today by his son Damian Hoare and Ann Corne, the gallery’s latest show is no different, championing rare and curious objects connected to the natural world.

The Natural World runs until October 22 at London gallery space Cromwell Place in South Kensington with around 40 objects on show, from Chinese root sculptures and scholar’s rocks to ancient stone carvings, meteorites and imperial relics.

Rare is certainly the term used to describe the leading highlights: three textiles produced using silk extracted from more than two million golden orb-weaver spiders in Madagascar.

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Frieze buzzes with buyers for serious art

Melanie Gerlis, 14 October 2021
Financial Times

…And finally…it’s the last chance to see three of only four existing textiles spun from the naturally golden silk of millions of orb-weaver spiders, at Oliver Hoare Limited in London’s Cromwell Place until October 22.  Designed by the textile artist Simon Peers and produced with Nicholas Godley, the largest lamba cloth on show is made from the silk of more than a million spiders, mostly collected from Madagascar (and released back to the wild).

The brocaded lamba last went on show in London’s V&A museum in 2012, at which time the natural historian David Attenborough said: “It must surely be counted as one of the rarest and most glamorous of fabrics.  Thank goodness the world still holds marvels.” Prices start at £250,000.

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Object of the Week – ‘Brocaded Weave Lamba’, 2009

30 September 2021
The Design Edit

THIS SHIMMERING SHAWL, with its bright yellow hue, calls to mind the sun, gold and Chinese Emperors, whilst giving the impression of great age. The revelation about this piece, however, on view at Oliver Hoare Ltd, is that it’s brand new and made from an un-dyed naturally-occurring material – spider silk. Handwoven in Madagascar from the protein fibre milked from millions of female Golden Orb spiders, this fabric is the culmination of a twenty year project, driven by a dream to achieve the impossible.

The indefatigable designer behind the piece is Simon Peers, a British art historian and textile expert. Ever since he settled in Madagascar, thirty-odd years ago, he has been fascinated by the indigenous textile tradition. The island, lying off the coast of East Africa, has always been the natural trading hub of the Indian Ocean, and so its peoples and culture are a unique blend of South-East Asian and East African. Peers noticed that whilst many international museums had collections on African or Asian textiles, the Madagascan tradition was barely covered. This prompted him to start an archive of traditional designs and motifs.

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For collectors' eyes only

Huon Mallalieu, 8 September 2021
Country Life

The first to see [Cromwell Place’s] potential was the late Oliver Hoare, expert in Middle Eastern antiquities and creator of cabinets of curiosities.  His business is now run by his son, Damian, with Ann Corne, has returned to Gallery 3, Cromwell Place with an exhibition, ‘Natural World’ (September 22–October 22), that might have been formed by Oliver himself: there is at least one of his beloved unicorns, a natural narwal tusk to the prosaic.

Another natural wonder is a Japanese or Chinese scholar’s 601/2in-high cedar root wood sculpture dating from the 17th or 18th century on a base of Andaman redwood.  Might it not distract more than aid contemplation? There is also a pair of gilded bezoar stones, found in stomachs and, when powdered, regarded as an infallible antidote to poison; they belonged to Ranjit Singh, Lion of the Punjab (1780–1839).

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Eight years and 2m arachnids later, spider silk fabrics go on show in London

6 September 2021
Mark Brown, Arts Correspondent

Garments made from silk of golden orb-weavers form part of exhibition of curious objects connected to natural world

Tropical female spiders are the size of a child’s hand, they can eat their puny male relatives for lunch and produce extraordinary golden silk that can be made into textiles like nothing else on the planet.

That is the idea. But the execution of such a project was far more complicated. Around 2 million spiders had to be collected from the highlands of Madagascar and their silk harvested over eight years to produce just four textiles.

It was, agreed textile designer Simon Peers, a crazy endeavour to embark on in the first place. “Over several hundred years you’ll find strange people who have tried to do this and every time it has been found to be mad,” he said.

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Exhibition Diary

September 2021
The World of Interiors

Nature nurtured: a collection of organic artefacts, including precious textiles made from golden spider-silk.

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Object Lessons

September 2021
The Art Newspaper

Shawl made from the silk of golden orb-weaver spiders

This is one of only four known textiles produced from the silk of golden orb-weaver spiders (Nephila Madagascariensis) – and three of them (two shawls and a lambda) are included in this exhibition of natural wonders at Oliver Hoare.

The laborious process of making them is mind-boggling–it has taken the textile designer Simon Peers and entrepreneur Nicholas Godley almost 20 years of work, leading a team that harvested the silk of more than two million spiders. They spet 15 years researching 18th and 19th century methods, designed equipment to extract the silk, then embarked on eight years of production, employing a team of 80 people to search the Madagascan highlands every morning for spiders (which were returned unharmed)…

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Apollo Gallery Highlights

September 2021
Apollo Magazine

Ranging from Chinese scholar’s rocks to meteorite fragments and from a narwhal tusk to an inscribed sapphire, this exhibition of some 40 objects is a celebration both of the beauty of nature and of the civilisations throughout history and across the world that have prized it. The highlight of the display is a group of three textiles spun from the silk of golden orb-weaver spiders in Madagascar – one of the most elusive materials in existence.

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21 October 2021