Maki’s Aga Khan Museum Makes Its Debut

Aga Khan Museum 14

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

Aga Khan Museum: A Needed Dose of Civic Ambition for Toronto

Aga Khan Museum 13

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.

Read More: Aga Khan Museum: A Needed Dose of Civic Ambition for Toronto

See also: Aga Khan Museum Opens in Toronto

Aga Khan Museum Opens in Toronto

Aga Khan Museum 12

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

See also: Aga Khan Museum Brings Artistic Riches to Toronto

Aga Khan Museum Brings Artistic Riches to Toronto

Aga Khan Museum 11

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.

Read More: Aga Khan Museum Brings Artistic Riches to Toronto

See also: Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum Revealed

Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum Revealed

Aga Khan Museum 10

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

See also: Inside North America’s First Islamic Art Museum

Inside North America’s First Islamic Art Museum

Aga Khan Museum 09

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.

Read More: Inside North America’s First Islamic Art Museum

See also: Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum, Opening This Week, is a World-Class Showcase for Islamic Art

Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum, Opening This Week, is a World-Class Showcase for Islamic Art

Aga Khan Museum 08

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.

Read More: Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum, Opening This Week, is a World-Class Showcase for Islamic Art

See also: Aga Khan Museum: North America Finally Gets a Home for Islamic Art

Aga Khan Museum: North America Finally Gets a Home for Islamic Art

Aga Khan Museum in Toronto

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.

Read More: Aga Khan Museum: North America Finally Gets a Home for Islamic Art

See also: Toronto Set to Unveil First Museum of Islamic Culture in North America

Toronto Set to Unveil First Museum of Islamic Culture in North America

AKM Toronto 6

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.

Read More: Toronto Set to Unveil First Museum of Islamic Culture in North America

See also: Aga Khan’s Gift to Canada

Aga Khan’s Gift to Canada

AKM Toronto 5

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

See also: The Aga Khan Museum: An Oasis on the Outskirts of Toronto

The Aga Khan Museum: An Oasis on the Outskirts of Toronto

AKM Toronto 4

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.

Read More: The Aga Khan Museum: An Oasis on the Outskirts of Toronto

See also: Aga Khan Museum Enhances Islamic Values

and: The Aga Khan’s New Islamic Treasure Trove

Aga Khan Museum Enhances Islamic Values

AKM Toronto 3

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

See also: The Aga Khan’s New Islamic Treasure Trove

In Mameluke Lands

Museum of Islamic Art Cairo 2

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

Geometric Aljamia Links Many Cultures

Geometric Aljamia

Geometric Aljamia: a cultural transliteration is an exhibition that explores the connections between Europe, the Mediterranean basin and the Middle East by addressing the fundamental geometry embedded in two-dimensional art. Aljamia is the adaptation of the Arabic script to transcribe texts in European languages. In the past, Aljamia manuscripts played a significant role in preserving Islam and the Arabic language in the West, especially in Andalusia. By understanding the visual arts as a transliteration of one form of thinking to another, this exhibition revisits the ongoing impact of Islamic art, science and philosophy in the modern world.

Read More: Geometric Aljamia Links Many Cultures

The Aga Khan’s New Islamic Treasure Trove

AKM Toronto 2

Plenty of museums around the world collect Islamic art — from ornate Persian carpets to Mughal miniature paintings — but there’s never been a museum in North America focused solely on exhibiting these pieces, until now. On Sept. 18, Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum will open in a 31,500 square-foot space designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Fumihiko Maki, giving visitors a permanent spot to see one of the top private collections of Islamic art anywhere.

Read More: The Aga Khan’s New Islamic Treasure Trove

Saudis Risk New Muslim Division with Proposal to Move Mohamed’s Tomb

Muhammad's tomb

One of Islam’s most revered holy sites – the tomb of the Prophet Mohamed – could be destroyed and his body removed to an anonymous grave under plans which threaten to spark discord across the Muslim world. The controversial proposals are part of a consultation document by a leading Saudi academic which has been circulated among the supervisors of al-Masjid al-Nabawi mosque in Medina, where the remains of the Prophet are housed under the Green Dome, visited by millions of pilgrims and venerated as Islam’s second-holiest site. The formal custodian of the mosque is Saudi Arabia’s ageing monarch King Abdullah.

Read More: Saudis Risk New Muslim Division with Proposal to Move Mohamed’s Tomb

A Thousand Years of the Persian Book

A thousand years of the Persian book 2

Infrequent are the times in Washington, DC when the name ‘Iran’ is uttered outside discourses revolving around security and politics. The country has come to be defined by the ongoing circuit of think tank events and publications that grapple with Iran’s role in the world, and the piling up of congressional resolutions in response to its nuclear programme. Washington-Tehran relations are framed by some of the iconic sights of the US capital’s past and present, such as photographs of Jimmy Carter and Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi on the White House lawn wiping their eyes (as a result of the tear gas intended to fend off nearby protesters), and the dull, turquoise dome of the deserted Iranian embassy on Massachusetts Avenue. The Freer and Sackler Galleries of Asian Art at the Smithsonian, in focusing on Iran’s cultural heritage, have offered a refreshing, alternative perspective on Iran for US audiences, amidst geopolitical sturm und drang. The ongoing exhibition,Feast Your Eyes: A Taste for Luxury in Ancient Iran includes gilded and silver rarities from Iran’s pre-Islamic past, and serves as a reminder of the rich cultural heritage of the Iranian people and their engagement with elements beyond uranium. Joining the Freer and Sackler Galleries in highlighting Iran’s cultural achievements in Washington, DC is an exhibition at the Library of Congress entitled A Thousand Years of the Persian Book. Running through September 20, 2014, the exhibition has also been accompanied by a series of lectures by internationally-renowned scholars on Persian literature, culture, and heritage.

Read More: A Thousand Years of the Persian Book

See also: The World as Scripted in Persia

Private Meets Public for Heritage Conservation

Private meets public

“Heritage conservation is important to have a sense of memory and history. It is not just a question of your taste or aesthetics,” says Tasneem Mehta, Honorary Director of the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, to an eager audience. It is full-house, like at a stand-up comedy night, at the Education Centre in the backyard of the Museum. Curators, architects and conservation enthusiasts are part of the crowd for a panel discussion on heritage restoration put together by Asia Society India and the Museum. The venue, with its beige walls and chocolaty brown rafters, once used to be a dingy storehouse for the Museum, we are told. Saved from demolishment, a common end for many old structures in the city, it is now as up-market looking as a Bandra cafe with an old-world charm.

Read More: Private Meets Public for Heritage Conservation

Humayun’s Tomb Model for Heritage Rules

Humayun's tomb

Twenty-eight centrally-protected monuments in Humayun’s Tomb world heritage site and the crowded Nizamuddin area could serve as case studies for framing heritage bylaws nationwide. Struggling with the task of making bylaws for all 3,600-plus ASI-protected monuments, National Monuments Authority has turned to organizations which are already well-versed in heritage of specific areas. Aga Khan Trust for Culture has been approached regarding all protected buildings in Nizamuddin area.

Read More: Humayun’s Tomb Model for Heritage Rules

Culture Wars: Tracking the Destruction of Middle East Monuments

Destruction of Middle East sites

Who cares about architectural heritage in Syria and Iraq when people are dying by the thousand? Well, more and more people are as it becomes understood that cultural genocide is inextricably linked to human genocide and ethnic cleansing. Attacks on a community’s history — its cultural identity and the ancient monuments that bear witness to centuries of presence — are calculated. They say you do not belong here and never did; your churches, your Sufi saints’ shrines, your Shia mosques will be swept away so that you are terrified into leaving and are never tempted to return.

Read More: Culture Wars: Tracking the Destruction of Middle East Monuments

A Wise Man’s Advice on Love Through Theater in Medieval Cairo

Ibn Hazm play

Are you in love with a special someone but you don’t know what to do to attract his attention? Do you feel butterflies in your stomach when this one girl who lives down your street passes by? Are you heartbroken and sad, sad feelings really leave you puzzled? Ibn Hazm al-Andalusi might have the answers you need. These days the advice of the 10th century cleric can be found on the intersection of Saliba Street and Suyufiyya Street in ad-Darb al-Ahmar, at a 14th century building that goes by the name of the Amir Taz Palace. Here, Hani Afifi presents his theater play “About Lovers” (“عن العشاق”).

Read More: A Wise Man’s Advice on Love Through Theater in Medieval Cairo

The United Arab Emirates is to Restore the Museum of Islamic Art, Cairo

Islamic museum after bombing, Cairo, Egypt, 26 January 2014.

After a seven-month hiatus, restoration work of the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) in central Cairo is finally set to begin. The MIA was subjected to severe destruction and damage in January after a car bomb exploded outside the adjacent Cairo Security Directorate. The blast of the bomb destroyed the facade of the building and the nearby Egyptian National Library and Archives building.

Read More: The United Arab Emirates is to Restore the Museum of Islamic Art, Cairo

Important Indian Paintings to Feature at Bonhams’ Asia Week Sale on September 17th

Indian Paintings at Bonhams

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.

Read More: Important Indian Paintings to Feature at Bonhams’ Asia Week Sale on September 17th in New York

How Los Angeles’s Islamic Art Shows Might Expand Our ‘Middle East’ Vision

LA Islam Arts Initiative

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.

Read More: How Los Angeles’s Islamic Art Shows Might Expand Our ‘Middle East’ Vision

President of Turkey Awards Freer and Sackler Galleries Director Julian Raby the Order of Merit

Julian Raby

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.”

Read More: President of Turkey Awards Freer and Sackler Galleries Director Julian Raby the Order of Merit


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