GAIL VAN DER HOOF
Gail van der Hoof’s art background led her to decorative arts and textiles, and then to an interest in quilts. With Honoree Jonathan Holstein, she began collecting quilts, mainly pieced and Amish quilts. Their pieced quilts were what Gail felt were the “every day” quilts made by unsung artist-creators. As serious collectors, the two studied the patterns, the evolving design elements and the fabrics. Gail lectured and wrote on the dating of fabrics and techniques.
Their exhibition titled “Abstract Design in American Quilts” at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1971 was a landmark event. New York City, the news capital of the United States, brought forth art critics who looked anew at this decorative art form. The news traveled far outside the quilt community, making this legendary exhibition a cornerstone of the “Renaissance of Quilting” that began in the mid 1960s.
The show at the Whitney led to other shows in Europe and America. Both Gail and Jonathan lectured extensively to artists and quilters alike, influencing the acceptance of quilts by mainstream folk art collectors and quilt makers. The renaissance in quilt making began to swell, leading to a bicentennial quilt competition in 1976, state quilt documentation projects in the 1980s and an expanding field of scholarly research. The many exhibitions they curated at museums here and abroad, and their lecturing and writing about quilts over the next two decades, were instrumental in broadening interest in quilts as works of art.
Gail van der Hoof passed away at her home on March 27, 2004, shortly before her sixty-first birthday.
Photo courtesy of Jonathan Holstein.
I used to think, sleeping in the same apartment with the efforts of so many women, that I could almost hear them speaking and feel them breathing. They were speaking the language of quilts, and I was listening.”
Gail van der Hoof,
interviewed by Ann Nash in 1997