Rare Persian Ornaments Highlight of Bonhams Islamic Art Sale

Bonhams Islamic auction October

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).

Read More: Rare Persian Ornaments Highlight of Bonhams Islamic Art Sale

Single Owner Collection of Qajar Orders and Decorations Lead Bonhams Sale of Islamic Art

Bonhams Islamic auction October 2

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.

Read More: Single Owner Collection of Qajar Orders and Decorations Lead Bonhams Sale of Islamic Art

Sumptuous Objects at Christie’s Islamic Art Week

Christie's Islamic sale October 2014

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.

Read More: Sumptuous Objects at Christie’s Islamic Art Week

Amburiq Mosque: Restored Spirituality

Amburiq Mosque

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

Inside North America’s First Islamic Art Museum

AKM Toronto 8

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.

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

See also: Aga Khan Museum: Enlightened Islam Fights Back Against Jihadist Brutality

Aga Khan Museum: Enlightened Islam Fights Back Against Jihadist Brutality

AKM Toronto 7

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.

Read More: Aga Khan Museum: Enlightened Islam Fights Back Against Jihadist Brutality

See also: Maki’s Aga Khan Museum Makes it Debut

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


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