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
Despite a minor fire last month, construction for Qatar’s upcoming National Museum remains on track, and an opening date is scheduled for 2016, Qatar Museums has confirmed. When completed, the museum, located across from the Corniche near the Museum of Islamic Art, is expected to look like a desert rose that appears to grow out of the ground. It will join Qatar’s growing collection of cultural facilities, including the MIA, which opened in 2008, and the Arab Museum of Modern Art (Mathaf), which saw a 2010 launch. Late last year, Sheikha Amna bint Abdulaziz bin Jassim Al-Thani was appointed as the museum’s director.
Read More: Qatar’s National Museum Eyeing 2016 Opening
Ayyam Gallery’s latest show, Syria’s Apex Generation, puts the spotlight on a new school of Syrian painting that developed in Damascus, and continues to thrive despite the disintegration of the art scene in the city. The multiple-venue show, spread across Ayyam’s two spaces in Dubai and in Beirut features recent works by Nihad Al Turk, Abdul Karim Majdal Al Beik, Othman Mousa, Mohannad Orabi, and Kais Salman. It explores the myriad ways a new generation of artists is responding to the current conflict in Syria, marking a new phase in Syrian contemporary art. But it also looks at how these artists are carrying forward the legacy of the artists who shaped Syrian visual culture for over 60 years.
Read More: Creations Reflecting the Conflict in Syria
The calligraphic sculptures created by Bassam Al Selawi and Maysoon Masalha look deceptively simple. But when the lights in the gallery are dimmed and the spotlights switched on, a surprising fourth dimension is revealed. The shadow cast by each wall-mounted sculpture is a figure or words related to the feelings evoked, or the mental images conjured by the words on the sculpture itself. The latest show by the Jordanian couple, Don’t Trust Your Eyes includes shadow sculptures featuring verses from the Quran and poetic phrases, with the shadows sometimes illustrating the emotions embodied by the words, and sometimes telling quite another story.
Read More: A Hidden World in the Shadows
The ‘rose and the nightingale’ is a theme that has been used in Persian literature and visual imagery for centuries. The rose represents beauty, perfection and a sometimes self-absorbed and cruel beloved. And the nightingale symbolises the devoted lover yearning to become one with the beloved. The theme can thus be interpreted as a metaphor for both earthly and spiritual love. Curator Maneli Keykavoussi explores modern interpretations of this age-old theme in a group show titled The Rose and the Nightingale: A Persian Iconography by bringing together works by pioneers of Iranian modern art such as her mother, the late Farideh Lashai, and Farshid Mesghali and well-known Iranian artists such as Amin Roshan, Rozita Sharafjahan, Dariush Hosseini, Ladan Boroujerdi, Navid Azimi Sajadi, Masoumeh Bakhtiari, Farid Jafari Samarghandi, Gizella Varga Sinai, Rasool Soltani and Sara Rahanjam.
Read More: Sweet Essence of Iran
Arab artist Kamal Boullata was born in Occupied Jerusalem in 1942, but has lived in exile in America and Europe since he was 18. Despite his Western art education, he has kept in touch with his roots by doing extensive research on Islamic and Modern Arab art, and has written several essays and books on Islamic, Byzantine and Palestinian art. His latest body of work, Bilqis, named after the queen of Sheba, seamlessly combines Western and Islamic abstraction. The series, comprising five triptychs is inspired by the Quranic legend of the queen’s visit to the court of King Solomon, where she mistook the glass floor for a sheet of water and lifted up her skirt to avoid getting it wet. The paintings are essentially about recreating the transparency and spatial ambiguity in visual perception that the queen had experienced.
Read More: Symmetry Inspired by Architecture
It is obvious from the artworks in Ramin Shirdel’s first solo exhibition in Dubai, Whispers of Love, why the Iranian artist is also an award-winning architect. Shirdel’s three-dimensional wall-mounted works have been created from hundreds of painted pieces of wood of different shapes and sizes. These have been assembled together in layers that further combine to form Farsi-Arabic letters and words. The artworks, painted with bright automotive paints, look different from different angles. As you move around the pieces, the letters and words appear and disappear. And the layers seem to move in a rhythmic, wave-like motion, with the criss-crossing lines formed by the shadows adding to the movement and drama.
Read More: A Labour of Love