Skip to main content

"Afghan War Rugs" opens at South Dakota Art Museum

“Afghan War Rugs” opens at South Dakota Art Museum (Aug. 23 - Nov. 24, 2019)
“Afghan War Rugs: The Modern Art of Central Asia” at South Dakota Art Museum (Aug. 23 - Nov. 24, 2019)

Afghan War Rugs: The Modern Art of Central Asia, an international exhibition of contemporary Afghan war rugs, opened Aug. 23 at the South Dakota Art Museum. The exhibition will be on view through Nov. 24, 2019.

The museum will host a free public reception Thursday from 5-7 p.m. with exhibition co-curator, Annmarie Sawkins, speaking at 5:45 p.m. Light appetizers and refreshments will be served.

Afghan War Rugs: The Modern Art of Central Asia brings one of the most distinct collections of Afghan war rugs in the world to the United States for the first time.

The artists, who were traditionally women, produced rich pictorial images that recount a broader and more contemporary story of their land. The weavers and their designers revolutionized an ancient craft and created a new artistic genre, knotted rugs with maps, portraits of kings, khans and military leaders and in rugs with weapons.

Jodi Lundgren, South Dakota Art Museum curator of exhibitions, sees this exhibition as an opportunity to display an art form that is fascinating on many levels. “Although not much is known about their origins, circumstances of their production, or even the identity of the artists,” Lundgren noted, “these war rugs offer an opportunity to learn about a largely unfamiliar world.”

“Even as we have been installing this exhibit, we have had stimulating conversations with visitors as they encounter the rich imagery in these rugs,” Lundgren said, recalling a conversation with a U.S. veteran who served in Afghanistan. “He was clearly startled to see these rugs during a visit to South Dakota Art Museum, but genuinely excited to see the exceptional examples of the types of rugs he had seen in the markets. With South Dakota State University students starting classes we look forward to the opportunities for discussion and learning that this exhibition will provide students and our visitors.”

About “Afghan War Rugs: The Modern Art of Central Asia”

This collection of over 40 rugs was assembled over three decades through purchases throughout Central Asia and in Europe. They were selected for their exceptional quality, rarity, and surprising content and represent an encounter of timeless aesthetic tradition with the violent roiling reality of contemporary Central Asia. “Afghan War Rugs” is co-curated by Annmarie Sawkins and Enrico Mascelloni.

About South Dakota Art Museum

South Dakota Art Museum is located at 1036 Medary Avenue in Brookings and is open daily throughout the period of this exhibition except for upcoming holiday closures: Labor Day (Sept. 2), Native American Day (Oct. 14) and Veterans Day (Nov. 11). Admission to the museum is free. Parking is also free in the museum’s reserved lot just west of the museum on Harvey Dunn Street. For more information, call 605-688-5423, email or visit