The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is known for a lot of things: its giant rock, its rack of lampposts and that crazy mint-green building by Bruce Goff that looks like a totally ’70s samurai helmet. But it also has an extraordinary collection of art from the Islamic world, with more than 1,700 objects dating back to the early Islamic era (which began in the 7th century). The collection includes an ethereally translucent 14th century Egyptian lamp, a majestic 16th century Iranian silk rug and an entire fountain harvested from an 18th century Syrian home.
The Aga Khan is a smiling man, genial, with twinkling eyes and never less than a faint trace of benign good will turning up the corners of his mouth. He smiled all the way through a speech last month at the opening of the new Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, especially while alluding to the innate happiness embodied in the branch of Shiite Islam of which he is the spiritual leader, Ismailism: “We are a community that welcomes the smile,” he said.
With the death of Professor George Scanlon on Sunday 13 July, during a short visit to New York, the field of Islamic art and architecture has lost a remarkable scholar and perhaps the last of the great amateur archaeologists: amateur in the best eighteenth-century sense of the word. His loss will resonate throughout Cairo, where he made his life’s home, in so far as anyone with such wide tastes and universal interests can be said to have had a temporal home, but, as his muse was Egypt, he wore the city like a comfortable old pair of shoes. His students will remember him as an inspired and incomparable cicerone of the Islamic architecture of Cairo, pointing out the discreet beauty of some stonework or the historical significance of some monument, but always insisting on the exactitude of dates and facts.
Read More: A Scholarly Life: Professor George Scanlon
In order to celebrate the rich traditions of Indian and Islamic art, Sotheby’s has mounted ‘Indian and Islamic Week’, a high profile series of public exhibitions and three dedicated auctions presenting the works of renowned artists and craftsmen from the Indian Subcontinent and the Islamic world. These exciting initiatives will take place at Sotheby’s in London from 3 – 8 October 2014. The sales comprise Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art on 7 October, and Art of Imperial India and Arts of the Islamic World on 8 October. The combined estimate across the three sales is £11,200,000-16,000,000.
Delhi’s first site museum for a world heritage monument promises to be nothing less than a world class experience. Designed on lines similar to the Aga Khan Museum, inaugurated in Toronto days ago, it, too, will sport naturally-illuminated galleries set amid a Mughal-inspired landscape. The Aga Khan Trust for Culture-which is constructing the museum on behalf of Archaeological Survey of India-has roped in Vir Mueller Architects to design the museum. Shaheer Associates will be creating the landscape.
Read More: Humayun’s Tomb Set to Get Site Museum
An exhibition on prominent 18th Century South Indian Muslim ruler Tipu Sultan opened yesterday [September 29th] at the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) Special Exhibitions Gallery. “This exhibition aims to tell the story of Tipu Sultan, a famous South Indian ruler, statesman, patron of the arts, poet, diplomat, a key figure in the late 18th century India,” William Greenwood, MIA Curator for Central Islamic Lands explained during a press tour yesterday. Tipu Sultan’s formidable reputation and strong self-image makes him an extraordinary subject in an exhibition where art, objects and narrative combine to examine the past.
The Bonhams Islamic and Indian art auction returns to London in its second installment of the year on October 7. This sale covers an extensive range of art and artifacts dating from the 9th to the 19th century. One of the key collections that is on offer this October comes from the coffers of a Swiss collector, and comprises of rare Persian artifacts originating from the time of the Qajar dynasty (1781 to 1925).
One of the most exceptional and comprehensive collections of Persian Qajar Orders and Decorations ever to come to public auction forms a key part of Bonhams Indian and Islamic sale on October 7 in London. The collection, compiled by a private Swiss Collector, is estimated to sell for a total of £600,000 to £800,000. The product of nearly half a century of collecting, the present offering has been painstakingly assembled to encompass the full gamut of royal, civilian, political, military, and familial orders issued by Qajar Monarchs during their rule of Persia between 1797 to 1923. The focal point of the present collection is a rare and illustrious group of gem-set orders and portraits depicting the great Qajar rulers themselves; opulent, ostentatious and flamboyant, the monarchs personified the grandiose, regal aesthetic that characterized Qajar Persia.
Objects tracing the rich cultural heritage of the Islamic and Indian worlds will be offered in a series of three sales at Christie’s in London during Islamic Art Week which runs from 7-10 October. Among the 700 lots on offer within the sales there is particular strength among the works of art from the Mughal, Safavid and Ottoman Empires. The sales offer an insight into the diversity of the religious, social and geographical influences on works of art and the craftsmen, artists and patrons who created them.
At first glance, the Amburiq mosque in Shigar bears little resemblance to a traditional mosque. The 14th century mud and wood structure which was designed by a Kashmiri architect, deviates from the conventional architectural pattern due to its visibly tall insignia. A closer inspection, however, reveals its mosque-like features that have been shaped by years of history and events that have transpired in the Shigar valley, 35km east from Skardu, in Baltistan.
Read More: Amburiq Mosque: Restored Spirituality
When he heard that a landscaped Persian garden was under development in Toronto, David Chalmers Alesworth laughed. Last week, however, as the artist, educator, and sculptor made his way across a cross-section of suburban highway sprawl in Toronto’s northeastern Don Mills neighbourhood, and entered the gardens surrounding the newly opened Aga Khan Museum, he was genuinely amazed.
At a time when the worldwide media image of Islam is dominated by nihilistic merchants of extreme violence, and just as the world wearily mobilises to meet this savage threat, something calmly encouraging happens in Toronto, Canada, to help redress the balance. Eighteen years in the planning, the $300m Aga Khan Museum and Ismaili Centre complex opened its doors to the public on September 18th: two highly significant buildings by master architects in a new 17-acre city park. It is a cultural complex that celebrates the other Islam: the artistic, intellectual and scientific achievements of Muslim societies from ancient times to the present.
See also: Maki’s Aga Khan Museum Makes it Debut
Toronto’s cultural brand has moved into a new galaxy. After four years of construction, the Aga Khan Museum, designed by Pritzker Prize–winner Fumihiko Maki, opened east of the city’s downtown on Thursday [18th September]. With the new, sublimely detailed 124,000-square-foot building, Tokyo-based Maki and Associates (with Toronto’s Moriyama & Teshima Architects) expand the city’s repertoire of museums and university buildings designed by local and international architects, including Frank Gehry, Norman Foster, Will Alsop, and Daniel Libeskind. The museum — a restrained canted box clad in a super-white Brazilian granite, with an interior courtyard open to the sky and flooded with daylight — is part of a graceful 17-acre compound.
Read More: Maki’s Aga Khan Museum Makes it Debut
Above all, the Ismaili Centre and Aga Khan Museum are an act of faith, not just in religion but in Toronto. Of all the cities where these facilities, especially the museum, could have been located, the Ismailis chose this one. Not only did they construct their monuments in a forlorn site at Eglinton and Wynford Dr., they hired two of the finest architects in the world — Fumihiko Maki of Japan and Charles Correa from India — to design them. Not only did the Ismailis see the possibility of beauty where no one here had noticed, they put their money — $300 million and a priceless collection — where their mouth is.
See also: Aga Khan Museum Opens in Toronto
After 18 years, the dream of an Islamic centre for art and community has become a reality — not, as originally intended, in London, England, but in Toronto. This week I attended one of the many opening ceremonies of the Aga Khan museum. It’s a triumph indeed. Much has been written recently about the building’s architecture, and about the Aga Khan’s hopes for the museum, gardens, and attached Ismaili Centre, as a centre for cultural diplomacy. An adapted précis of the Aga Khan’s speech was published in the Globe and Mail, and most reviews have been glowing. Yesterday’s opening was for museum workers and academics. The museum’s staff looked a tiny bit stressed and worn after all of the activity from the week before, but they were still bravely chatting up the guests and certainly made everyone feel welcomed.
Read More: Aga Khan Museum Opens in Toronto
The Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, which is dedicated to presenting an overview of the artistic, intellectual and scientific contributions that Muslim civilizations have made to world heritage, is opening its doors to the public today, becoming the first of its kind in North America. Bankrolled by Prince Karim Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of Ismaili Muslims, the museum features rare scriptures of the Quran from the seventh and eighth centuries. At a preview last week, a piece of carved marble from 10th-century Spain was among the works that sparked particular interest. There are fine collections of Islamic art in museums throughout Canada and the United States, but this is the first devoted entirely to such works when it welcomes visitors.
See also: Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum Revealed
Among the exquisite exhibits that fill the Aga Khan Museum of Islamic Art, which opens in Toronto on 18 September, is a little Moghul portrait, just over a foot tall, entitled Shah Jahan, His Three Sons and Asaf Khan. It’s an enchanting image by any standard, the five figures, each seen in profile, stand, or in Shah Jahan’s case sit, on a carpet woven with flowers, against a ground of greenery and vivid blue sky patterned with clouds. They are lavishly bejewelled and diaphanously clad. Though it was painted in watercolour and ink, its colours remain bright, as does the gold with which it is embellished.
Read More: Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum Revealed
On a parcel of land shaped like double almonds, where once stood the world headquarters of the Bata Shoe empire, one of the world’s wealthiest men appeared, a scoot up from downtown Toronto. The other shoe had indubitably dropped — in this case, North America’s first purpose-built museum dedicated to Islamic art, made possible by the benefactor-of-the-hour, and set against a backdrop of a time when the schisms between the West and the Islamic world have rarely been more keen.
It’s said that a city – a city like Toronto, say – whose boosters often rely on the adjective “world-class” to describe both its overall grooviness and its particular charms can’t, in fact, be truly world-class. You’re either world-class or you’re not and no amount of huffing, puffing or tub-thumping is going to grant a burg that cachet. World-class, in short, is self-evident and unspoken. Still, you can’t keep a person from thinking something’s world-class. Which is, in fact, what I was thinking one cool, overcast morning last week while touring the Aga Khan Museum with educational consultant Patricia Bentley. The museum, which opens Thursday [September 18th] (a ceremonial opening, featuring Prince Shah Karim Al Hussaini Aga Khan, was held Sept. 12), has been a long time coming, Toronto having been named its home 12 years ago this October by the prince, spiritual head of the planet’s 15 million Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims.
There were lustrous ceramics, shimmering skeins of silk, finely carved ivory, illuminated texts and all the latest medical instruments. Lavishly paraded through the streets of 10th-century Cairo, the Fatimid caliphs used the public display of royal bounty to help cement their new capital as the most important cultural centre of the Islamic world. Masters of stagecraft and the symbolic power of art, they developed a culture of exhibiting private treasures in public long before museums began in the west. Now, 1,000 years later, one of their descendants is continuing the tradition – in a business park on the edge of Toronto.
Luis Monreal is a ball of energy who speaks quickly and wields a large vocabulary. Born in Spain to a Catalan mother and a Basque father, he is fluent in French, Spanish, English, German, and (he smiles) “some Arabic.” The man who runs the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in Geneva is in Toronto, preparing for the opening of the new Aga Khan Museum. Lighting technicians, carpenters, curators and cleaners bustle through the galleries, scrambling to get everything finished for a press preview Wednesday. The facility, which opens next week, is the first museum of Islamic art in North America. Mr. Monreal threads his way to a glass box inside which glows a gold disc the size of a tea saucer. “Now a major piece in the museum is a very small one,” he said. “This is an astrolabe, made in Spain in the 14th century — probably made in Toledo, Spain, not Toledo, Ohio! The inscription is in Arabic, Hebrew and Latin.” An astrolabe, he explains, is an astronomical tool, a medieval piece of high technology used for navigation. Not far away sprawls a mamluk, a traditional square fountain of mosaic marble in geometric patterns, made in the 15th century for a home in Cairo.
See also: Aga Khan’s Gift to Canada
The first museum in North America devoted to Islamic arts and culture is due to open on 18 September in an unlikely place: the Don Mills suburb of Toronto, Canada. The Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslim community, philanthropist and chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network, is the founder of the C$300m ($275m) complex, which also includes a community centre and gardens covering 753,473 sq. ft. Eight years in the making, the 113,000 sq. ft Aga Khan Museum seeks to increase knowledge and understanding of Muslim civilisations through the arts of the Islamic world. The more than 1,000-strong collection, which includes illuminated manuscripts, ceramics, textiles, paintings, scientific texts and musical instruments, spans 11 centuries and is drawn from the personal holdings of the Aga Khan and his family.
Read More: Aga Khan’s Gift to Canada
There’s something inherently urban and urbane about museums, and that’s certainly the case in Toronto. The Royal Ontario Museum, with its stern, Romanesque revival mien juxtaposed with its new crystal addition, divides the red-brick varsity distinction of the University of Toronto on its west from the swish modern Bloor Street shopping strip to its the east. Meanwhile, the ever-evolving Art Gallery of Ontario reflects its place, all modern lines and glass facades designed by Frank Gehry sitting wedged between the up-and-coming Baldwin Village neighbourhood and the clattering bustle of Chinatown. Both those institutions — alongside smaller museums like the Bata Shoe Museum, Casa Loma, Design Exchange, Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, the Museum of Inuit Art, et al — are thoroughly central downtown engagements. So in that way, already, the Aga Khan Museum — set to open on Sept. 18 as North America’s first monument to Islamic art, and founded by its namesake, the founder of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) and imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims — is an outsider.
See also: Aga Khan Museum Enhances Islamic Values
A new and proud chapter in Canadian Ismaili Muslim history is set to unfold in September with the opening of the spectacular Aga Khan Museum and Ismaili Centre in Toronto. Located in the city’s Don Mills neighbourhood, in addition to two magnificent structures (the Aga Khan Museum and a new Ismaili Muslim community centre prayer hall), the project will include a beautiful park and gardens, created by Lebanese landscape architect Vladimir Djurovic. Fumihiki Maki, an internationally award-winning architect, designed the Aga Khan Museum, while renowned Indian architect Charles Correa designed the Ismaili Centre.
Read More: Aga Khan Museum Enhances Islamic Values
The scene at Bab Al-Khalq in Cairo has almost returned to normal. The January car bomb attack that targeted the Cairo Security Directorate on Port Said Street, where the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) is located, caused heavy damage and killed four people. Now, with the directorate restored, the street is once more buzzing with activity. But the façade of the MIA, which features elaborate decorations in the Islamic style, remains damaged and the shattered glass of the windows has not been replaced. In place of the authentic Mameluke gate, inlaid with silver and iron geometric motifs, stands a temporary mud-brick wall. Ever since the 24 January bombing, the facility has been closed to visitors.
Read More: In Mameluke Lands