Centuries-old Rajasthani and Pahari miniature paintings will be placed on the auction block for the first time as part of the Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Art sale on September 17 at Bonhams, the third largest international fine art auction house. Selected from the Barbara Janeff Collection of Indian Painting, the miniatures are among the sale’s highly anticipated highlights. The group features products of distinguished Indian schools of painting which flourished between the 17th and 19th centuries.
Too often the Middle East is reduced to just that: the “Middle East” — a blanket term defining a large swath of territory in Western Asia and North Africa, a news-hour shorthand for territorial conflicts and civil unrest. But “Middle East” does little to define the diversity of a region made up of nearly 20 countries, a dozen languages, myriad cultural traditions and several millennia of history. A series of exhibitions scheduled to land in Los Angeles starting in September should help open some minds. The Los Angeles/Islam Arts Initiative (LA/IAI), led by the Department of Cultural Affairs, will bring together nearly 30 cultural institutions in the L.A. area to stage exhibitions and events that will tell the story of Islamic art around the world.
Julian Raby, the Dame Jillian Sackler Director of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian’s museums of Asian art, has been awarded the Presidential Order of Merit, conferred by the president of the Republic of Turkey for contributions to Turkish art and culture. The award is one of Turkey’s highest honors. On behalf of President Abdullah Gül, Turkish Ambassador to the U.S. Serdar Kılıç presented the medal to Raby at an August 13 awards ceremony held at The Turkish Embassy Residence in Washington, D.C. “I’m deeply honored to receive this medal,” said Raby. “I first visited Turkey in 1967 and fell in love with its people, its places and its histories. My friendships from those early years evolved into collaborative projects, and I owe a remarkable debt to my Turkish friends and colleagues for their support and scholarship.”
Hyenas howl and feast on flesh every night outside the ancient walls of Harar — one of Islam’s holiest cities that is holding out against the pressures of the modern world. But change is coming, and campaigners are working hard to preserve the gated Ethiopian city’s unique history, cultural and religious traditions. Inside the thick stone walls modern influences abound: beer signs propped on crumbling old buildings, Chinese electronics in shop windows and shiny trucks on the main road alongside ageing Peugeot sedans. But despite the encroachments from the outside world, a generation of cultural campaigners are determined to preserve ancient customs — from clothing to bookbinding, to dance and song. “Because of globalisation, you can’t prevent all changes, but the culture, the religion, still survives,” said Abdela Sherif, owner of a museum housing the largest collection of Harari cultural relics in the world.
Despite achieving UNESCO World Heritage status, the world famed Mughal Gardens of Kashmir have been left to decay as no efforts were made to protect the heritage sites. Known for its unique archaeological landscaping expression, the gardens were slowly turning into “shabby sites”, local said, and accusing government for their callous approach to protect the sites.
Read More: Mughal Era Gardens Face ‘Decay’
Fine arts professor at Brendeis University Talinn Grigor has authored Contemporary Iranian Art: From the Street to the Studio, which will be released on October 3 from Reaktion Book and is being distributed by the University of Chicago Press in North America. Grigor is Associate Professor in the Department of Fine Arts at Brandeis University, Boston. She is the author of Identity Politics in Irano-Indian Modern Architecture (2013) and Building Iran: Modernism, Architecture, and National Heritage under the Pahlavi Monarchs (2009). The art world has recently witnessed a surge of interest in contemporary Iranian art, but what is the background to Iran’s vibrant art scene?
Following a New York auction late last year, Christie International PLC’s staff reached out to the U.S. Treasury Department for permission to ship Iranian goods to overseas buyers. Strict U.S. sanctions on Iran, intended to punish the Islamic Republic for its nuclear program, mean tight controls even for sales of Iranian antiquities–in this case, Persian carpets. The sale of these antiquities was unlikely to benefit Iran’s economy. They may have been out of the country for two centuries, said a compliance counsel at Christie’s. Yet the auction house would still need a license before shipping the carpet to a winning bidder in the United Kingdom or Australia.
Mughal Painting: Power and Piety at Foster Galleries at the Seattle Asian Art Museum presents works of art created in India under the Mughals, from 1526 to 1857. The artwork on display is predominantly miniature painting, which fuses Indian and Persian styles. The court’s finest artists worked on several hundred such pieces on paper, during the course of the empire. However, only a few have been preserved to the present day. The paintings predominantly depict the victories, battles and daily lives of the royalty.
“Most people from Edinburgh hate the festival,” admits Yuka Kadoi, as we tour her quietly impressive contribution to the world’s biggest arts event. “It’s too noisy.” The Edinburgh Fringe certainly does dominate Scotland’s capital in August, with many of the 3,000 performances taking place at buildings borrowed from the University of Edinburgh. This year, the university library is hosting a momentous event of its own, however, celebrating a significant anniversary for its most priceless asset. The World History of Rashid Al-Din was compiled 700 years ago, in 1314, “when Iran was under the Mongols,” explains Kadoi, the exhibition’s curator.
The Aga Khan Museum announced today that it will open its doors to the public on Thursday, 18 September. The announcement coincided with the launch of the museum’s website. Visitors will be able to explore a collection of over 1,000 objects, representing more than ten centuries of human history and a geographic area stretching from the Iberian coast to China. A vibrant performing arts programme will showcase artists, film, sights and sounds that have never been seen or heard in Toronto. “The opening of the Aga Khan Museum signals a new chapter in the history of museums in North America as the first dedicated to the arts of Islamic civilisations,” says Henry Kim, the museum’s Director. “Its mandate is to educate and inspire.”
Go to website: https://www.agakhanmuseum.org/
Ahmed Mater, one of Saudi Arabia’s leading artists, showed an audience at Sotheby’s London last night, Tuesday 12 August, the rampant development in Mecca that has transformed Islam’s holiest site into a luxury destination. Even the official logo of the municipality features a bulldozer alongside Islamic iconography. The discussion, part of Sotheby’s Tuesday talks programme covering the Middle Eastern art world and organised with Ibraaz, the publishing arm of the Kamel Lazaar Foundation, focused on Mater’s experiences in Mecca.
Bonhams second sale this year of Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern Art in London on October 7th features a variety of masterpieces from across the region. Building on the success of the April sale, which saw 86% of lots sold by value and featured buyers from over 12 different countries, Bonhams continues its strategy of broadening the market by presenting a carefully curated selection of works from the regions standout artists to a growing international audience. The October sale is led by two extraordinary works from Iran’s most celebrated modern artists, Sohrab Sepehri and Bahman Mohasses; the works come from the collection of perhaps the most lauded scholars of Iranian studies, Dr Ehsan Yarshater, (Hagop Kevorkian Professor Emeritus of Iranian Studies at Columbia University) and are sold to benefit of one of the most ambitious academic projects undertaken in the field of Middle Eastern studies this century, Encyclopaedia Iranica.
He was taking photos of an obscure Lodi-era tomb in south Delhi’s Lado Sarai when a man rushed out of it, and attacked him with an iron rod. Ratish Nanda was hospitalized for a week. Fifteen years later, standing fearlessly outside the monument, he says, “That man had occupied this gumbad (dome) and wanted to demolish it to build his garage.” Today, the tomb and Nanda are both intact. Nanda has become a healer of Delhi’s crumbling monuments. He has been involved in the conservation of more than 100 of them. And last year, the team led by the 41-year-old conservation architect finished restoring the Capital’s Humayun’s Tomb, the first of the great buildings raised by Mughals in the subcontinent.
Read More: Ratish Nanda: The Custodian of Ruins
If you have driven north along the Don Valley Parkway, one of Toronto’s major highways, you may have glimpsed a mysterious sight as you leave the downtown. Since 2010, two handsome monoliths have been rising next to the highway in the Don Mills neighbourhood. One is a torqued box of glimmering white stone; the other, a pale limestone disc capped by a crystalline blue dome. These mysterious volumes are two of Canada’s most remarkable new buildings. In September they will open as the Aga Khan Museum, a celebration of Islamic art and culture, and a new community centre and prayer hall for Ismaili Muslims.
Islamic state militants (Isis) have blown up a significant shrine in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, the latest in a series of holy sites reportedly destroyed by the jihadist group. On 24 July, Isis members detonated explosives in the Mosque of the Prophet Younis. The militants said that “the mosque had become a place for apostasy, not prayer”, according to Agence France Presse. The Nabis Younis mosque, thought to be the burial place of Jonah (the prophet swallowed by a whale), was built around 1393 upon the ruins of a Christian church.
Paintings and artefacts related to Tipu Sultan, the erstwhile South Indian ruler of the kingdom of Mysore, have enjoyed much admiration all over; be it Victoria & Albert Museum in London or Sotheby’s. Come September and the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, will play host to The Tiger’s Dream: Tipu Sultan, an exhibition that explores the life and times of the controversial statesman. The exhibition, which opens on September 29th 2014 and will go on till January 24, 2015, is drawn entirely from the MIA collection and features several objects which have never been displayed in Qatar.
An exhibition featuring calligraphy by established and upcoming artists from across the country was organised at the National Art Gallery of the Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) on Wednesday [23 July 2014]. “The exhibition is an attempt to keep the tradition of calligraphic art alive and to acknowledge the dedication and commitment of the calligraphers and painters who are continually practicing this art form and in turn, imparting the sensibility and sensitivity of the art form,” said PNCA Director General Intikhab Alam. Over centuries, numerous styles of script have come to be associated with Arabic. Yet, the form of writing remains the same in all of these varied styles.
The Middle East may not seem the obvious place to seek the rising stars of contemporary art. Yet works from the region has become increasingly sought after by collectors, with the “hottest things” including an Iranian painter in his 30s, a colonel in the Saudi army and a nonagenarian who was friends with Andy Warhol. In London today [21 July 2014], the auction house Sotheby’s unveiled a selection of the key works from Middle Eastern artists that will be auctioned in Doha in October. They will go on under the hammer alongside pieces by globally recognised artists including Damien Hirst and Anish Kapoor.
The New Museum presents Here and Elsewhere, the first museum-wide exhibition in New York City to feature contemporary art from and about the Arab world. The exhibition brings together more than forty-five artists from over fifteen countries, many of whom live and work internationally. In keeping with the New Museum’s dedication to showcasing the most engaging new art from around the globe, Here and Elsewhere is the most recent in a series of exhibitions that have introduced urgent questions and new aesthetics to US audiences. “This exhibition continues the New Museum’s commitment to looking at art from beyond the confines familiar to the New York art world,” said Massimiliano Gioni, Associate Director and Director of Exhibitions. “Here and Elsewhere brings new works and new voices to our audiences, presenting many artists who are showing in New York for the first time.” Combining pivotal and under-recognized figures with younger and midcareer artists, Here and Elsewhere works against the notion of the Arab world as a homogenous or cohesive entity. Through the original and individualized practices of a multigenerational constellation of artists, the exhibition highlights works that often have conceptual or aesthetic references to the Arab world, yet also extend well beyond.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of the world’s finest museums, seeks an Associate Curator who will be required to be a specialist in twentieth and twenty-first century art of the Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey. S/he will be responsible for all curatorial duties, including: researching, studying, and publishing works in the collection in her/his area of expertise, recommending acquisitions, proposing future exhibitions and publications for the Metropolitan Museum and the Breuer project.
The word that quickly springs to mind as you survey the new A to Z exhibition at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin is colour. One page from a 16th-century Shahnama, Iran’s Book of Kings, is particularly striking. A phoenix-like creature called the Simurgh carries an abandoned child to its mountaintop nest, scarlet feathers soaring across lavender rock, and all still vibrantly vivid. “One notable thing about our collection is the quality,” says Dr Elaine Wright, the curator of the Library’s extensive Islamic Collection. “They’ve just been taken care of so well. Especially some of the manuscripts, the illustrations, it’s unbelievable. You’d swear they were done yesterday.”
Patience and perseverance are the virtues of an experienced conservationist. More so when the task at hand is a complex exercise to transform a dilapidated Mughal-era monument into an illuminating contemporary architectural delight. Towards this year’s end, heritage lovers will be in for a grand treat when the decade-long conservation work would be completed at the historic Neela Gumbad, a part of the sprawling Humayun’s Tomb complex. In all probability, this octagonal structure would become the Capital’s pride of place and even end up bagging the coveted world heritage site title.
Read More: Tile by Tile
Two shipments of stolen Egyptian artefacts spanning the eras of the pharaohs and the Mamluks have been returned to Egypt, thanks to efforts from diplomatic officials. The first consists of eight Islamic wooden art decorations stolen in 2008 from the pulpit of Ghanim Al-Bahlawan Mosque in Al-Darb Al-Ahmar in Cairo’s historic Islamic district. Ghanim Al-Bahlawan Mosque, named after the Circassian Mamluk, was constructed in 1478 AD during the reign of Sultan Qait Bey. The decorative items depict geometrical patterns embellished with ivory.
An exhibition of contemporary calligraphy and paintings opened up at My Art World gallery on Monday. Titled Alfaaz, the exhibition features artworks by Rabia Malik and Mahjabeen Atif, with each artist exhibiting nine pieces. Unlike most run-of-the-mill, traditional calligraphy pieces, the artwork on display is a combination of contemporary styles and techniques and in some places they comprise only the Arabic alphabet that may or may not make up actual words. This lends the collection an open-ended feel. However, the intertwined scripts, intricate detailing and symbolism make for a visually-appealing mix.
Raya Wolfsun talks and words flow into multi-directional thoughts with the fluidity of mercury on a table. You try to catch them so as to apportion them into comprehensible slots of the conventional. But they escape. Then, she smiles and asks, “You want to know how I brand myself, right?” That fluidity also speaks for how Wolfsun treats her passions. She calls herself an artist and a scholar and reasons that those roles are quite interlinked. “I wish there was a word that could integrate both, because to me, they are heavily intertwined. In fact, all my life, it’s been strange for me to try to be one or the other,” she says. An expert in Islamic astrolabes, Wolfsun has spent many a day marvelling at the impressive collection of astrolabes at the Museum of Islamic Art, and poring over several books at the MIA library on the subject.
Read More: The Art of the Matter