The first object from the Kier Collection, a trove of Islamic Art that includes nearly 2,000 objects and will be on a 15-year renewable loan with the Dallas Museum of Art, was unveiled at the museum this morning. The rock crystal ewer is an exquisitely crafted pouring vesicle that dates back to the courts of Fatimid Egypt in the late 10th century. Carved from a single stone, the object is the work of virtuosic skill, its delicate translucent container as thin as 1 mm in sections. The face of the ewer features an inlaid design, twisting vines which frame the profile of a cheetah, its back arched, eyes peering outwards. Carved from silica mineral quartz, it is one of only seven objects in the world that features a stone this large, and it is the cornerstone of the collection that is coming to Dallas.
Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, announced today that an exhibition of some 60 jeweled objects from the private collection formed by Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al-Thani will be presented at the Museum this fall. Treasures from India: Jewels from the Al-Thani Collection, on view October 28 through January 25, will provide a glimpse into the evolving styles of the jeweled arts in India from the Mughal period until the early 20th century, with emphasis on later exchanges with the West. The exhibition will be shown within the Metropolitan Museum’s Islamic art galleries, adjacent to the Museum’s own collection of Mughal-period art.
Persian first gained prominence a thousand years ago, a language of literature, poetry and folklore that connected people across vast stretches of Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. The Library of Congress today [March 27, 2014] opens A Thousand Years of the Persian Book, the first major U.S. exhibition to make such a wide-ranging study of the Persian language and literature. The landmark exhibition features 75 items drawn primarily from the Persian collection of the Library’s African and Middle Eastern Division, one of the most important such collections assembled outside of Iran.
Read More: A Millennium of Persian Literature
From March 30 through June 29, 2014, the Dallas Museum of Art will host Nur: Light in Art and Science from the Islamic World. The DMA is the only venue outside of Europe to host this international touring exhibition of Islamic art and culture co-organized by the DMA and the Focus-Abengoa Foundation. Critically acclaimed by such publications as The Financial Times and the International New York Times when it premiered in Seville, Spain in October, Nur: Light in Art and Science from the Islamic World spans more than ten centuries and features 150 works of art and objects from public and private collections in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and the United States.
In assembling Art Amongst War: Visual Culture in Afghanistan, 1979-2014, the current exhibition at the College of New Jersey Art Gallery, Deborah Hutton discovered works that evoked feelings ranging from dismay to guarded hope. But Dr. Hutton, the curator of the show and an associate professor of art history at the college, also expects visitors to react with surprise. Not just at what is portrayed in the pieces, but that the art, which will be on display through April 17, even exists.
Read More: Despite Conflict and Repression, Creativity
For an encyclopedic museum, it’s something of a feat that the Dallas Museum of Art has gone 111 years without hosting a major exhibition of Islamic art. It has been nearly 40 years since the museum has hosted even a small Islamic art exhibition. That changes this month with Nur: Light in Art and Science From the Islamic World. But don’t expect that to be mentioned on the promo poster.
There’s a widespread fascination with tracking the fate of a human contrivance across centuries and regions — mapmaking, prayer rituals, the use of salt, and the like. The ways such ideas and inventions change, where they pop up and why, open unexpected windows onto the social pageant of our species. Carpets of the East in Paintings From the West, a little gem of a show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, taps into that fascination as it examines artistic cross-pollination between three types of 17th-century Oriental carpets and three Dutch paintings of the same era.
Read More: From Rugs to Riches
Sabiha al-Khemir was visiting a solar energy plant in Spain about four years ago when inspiration struck. Her host, the foundation of a Spanish company with interests in alternative energy, wanted her to conceive an Islamic art exhibition for Seville to recognize Spain’s 800-year history under Moorish rule and ideally to tie her concept into the Seville-based company’s work. Touring the solar plant, the Tunisian-born curator found her organizing principle. “It was an incredible experience,” Ms. Al Khemir, 55, recalled. “Light was everywhere.”
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has announced that it will house a new exhibit, Carpets of the East in Paintings from the West, featuring 17th-century Islamic carpets alongside depictions in Dutch paintings from March 11 – June 29 at The Hagop Kevorkian Fund Special Exhibitions Gallery, Gallery 458. As early as the 14th century, images of carpets woven in the East-primarily in the areas constituting present-day Turkey and Iran-began to appear in European paintings.
A special exhibit that was featured five years ago at the Ontario Science Centre has returned with new features, more interactive displays, and plenty to do for all ages. Sultans of Science: 1,000 Years of Knowledge Rediscovered opened Friday, March 7, and will run until June 7, 2014 for visitors to learn about the important scientific and technological discoveries made by scholars during the Golden Age of Islamic Science.
A spectrum of special exhibitions, cultural events and academic symposia will put the spotlight on Arab artists and the Arab world at the 15th edition of the FotoFest Biennial, to be held in Houston, Texas, from March 15th to April 27th 2014. FotoFest is the oldest photographic arts festival in the United States, and one of the leading photography biennials in the world. Art lovers can look forward to more than 100 independently organised art exhibitions and events at various museums, art spaces, universities and public spaces across Houston at FotoFest 2014 Biennial. But the centrepiece of the event is View from Inside, which comprises four exhibitions showcasing video, photography and mixed-media art by contemporary Arab artists from the Middle East and North Africa.
Read More: An Insider’s View of the Arab World
Tobacco heiress Doris Duke, who died in 1993, built a fantasy compound in Honolulu to showcase an exquisite collection of Islamic art she’d acquired in her many travels. You can get an exhilarating peek into this elegant, rarefied life by visiting Doris Duke’s Shangri-La: Architecture, Landscape and Islamic Art at the University of Michigan Museum of Art through May 4th, 2014.
In many countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa, walls and buildings became the canvas for street art during the Arab Spring uprisings that began in 2011 and gave protestors a platform. A collection of protest artwork is just one part of the exhibit called Creative Dissent at the Arab American Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. The exhibit also explores how digital technology has changed the way some expressions of protest are created and disseminated.
Persian Visions: Contemporary Photography from Iran, an exhibition of 58 works of photography and video installations by 20 of Iran’s most celebrated photographers, will be on view at DePauw University’s Richard E. Peeler Art Center beginning February 10th, 2014. The exhibition, which is free and open to the public, will continue through May 8th. It gathers personal perspectives of contemporary Iran filtered through individual sensibilities, which simultaneously addressing public concerns.
In the 19th century, the East represented the realm of exoticism, fantasy and mystery. Literature and painting in particular used the lands beyond Europe as canvases for fertile explorations of the unknown and unlimited boundaries for imagination. By the latter half of the century, however, several pioneer photographers travelled to the Middle East and North Africa, bringing back to Europe and North America images that captured the idea of the exotic.
We know when the walnut tree used to build the wooden ark for the Ben Ezra synagogue in Cairo was cut down. Through carbon tracing, researchers have determined the date sometime after 1043. And researchers have also shown that the ark was first used in the 1080s and restored and redecorated over time. What remains a mystery is how this medieval carved door ended up in storeroom of a Fort Lauderdale auction house in the late 20th century.
Read More: Threshold to History
See also: The Arc of a Rare Ark Door
For the next several months, the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) will exhibit Islamic art that showcases the beauty and complexity of everyday objects from the eighth through the 19th centuries. A collaborative effort, UMMA will host the exhibition of objects from the Kelsey Museum of Architecture in its glass-walled Stenn Gallery. This exhibition is part of the UM Collections Collaborations series, supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, where the UMMA showcases the diversity of the University’s art collections.
Beauty and harmony are paramount in Islamic art. These qualities are also integral to the photographs, videos and films of Shirin Neshat. Born in Iran in 1957, the New York-based artist engages the Persian aesthetic and cultural traditions of her homeland to explore the ever-changing present of Iran. Her ravishing images show women crossing boundaries and asserting power despite Islamic norms that constrict their freedom. A rifle barrel protrudes like an earring alongside the face of a young woman in an image from Neshat’s 1996 series, “Women of Allah,” in the show She Who Tells a Story: Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World, on view through Jan. 12 at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.
Worlds Apart, an exhibition of photographic works by Drew Tal opened at Emmanuel Fremin Gallery last week. The focus of the exhibition – which is also being shown in Istanbul, Turkey – is the Muslim veil. Most of the works are, at least ostensibly, portraits of various Muslim women, some wearing the niqab (veil) and some wearing the hijab (headscarf).
Read More: The Veil Illuminated
What’s so apparent from Iran Modern is the relative obscurity of Iranian art in galleries and institutions since the American collector Abby Weed Grey began buying art from Iran in the 1960s. With the largest collection of modern Iranian Art outside Iran, Ms. Grey established the Grey Art Gallery at New York University in 1974 to provide a greater understanding of non-Western art. Although her vision was realized in a major art fair titled One World Through Art that she helped organize in Minnesota in 1972, and her seminal exhibition Between Word and Image: Modern Iranian Visual Culture at the Grey Art Gallery in 2002 was well received, these works have received short shrift since then. Now, for the first time, Iran Modern at the Asia Society, alongside Modern Iranian Art: Selections from the Abby Ward Grey Collection at N.Y.U. at the Grey Art Gallery, which features some of Ms. Grey’s collection, and Calligraffiti: 1984 – 2013 at the Leila Heller Gallery, highlight salient features of Iranian modernism and its inspiration for current artists from the region.
Read More: Modern Iranian Art
Using Islamic art as a springboard for modern works can be a fraught exercise. But the question of how artists today respond to this heritage vocabulary is fascinating. And on August 31, the interpretations of 12 artists from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, India and America opened at the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, Missouri in an exhibition titled Echoes. “We are contemporary, but are also informed and influenced by our histories, our traditions, our cultures — artists certainly are,” explained Kimberly Masteller, the curator of the exhibition, in a press release.
Read More: Islamic Art: Echo and Return
Interwoven Globe: The Worldwide Textile Trade, 1500-1800 is not your usual textile show. There is hardly a mention of warp and weft, only rare explanations of technique, and no in-depth exploration of the social contexts in which the artisans worked. Instead, the show uses cotton chintzes and silks, embroideries and tapestries, lively prints and luscious velvets to tell a much bigger story: how the global world we live in today took shape.
Read More: The Tangled Web They Wove
When a museum in the Western world focuses on a problematic foreign country, it usually wants to temper the antipathy between the two cultures by going beyond stereotypes, illustrating the other culture’s “vibrancy,” emphasizing its rich past, pointing up our shared history. All of which applies to Iran Modern, an exhibition at the Asia Society of more than 100 modernist works by 26 influential Iranian artists from the 1950s to the time of the Islamic Revolution in 1979. According to Melissa Chiu, the Asia Society’s director, the show “reminds us of a time of close relations between the U.S. and Iran, demonstrates that modernism and internationalism flourished outside the West in places like Iran—which many people might consider unlikely, but we can see that Iran is a country with a strong evolving artistic tradition.”
Read More: A Dawn Interrupted
See also: A Society Evolves
Although Americans’ relationship with Islam is often fraught with fear and suspicion, a small but highly engaging exhibit at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art offers multiple points of positive contact, from the sheer beauty of historical works to the abhorrence of violence expressed in contemporary pieces. Called Echoes: Islamic Art and Contemporary Artists, the exhibit brings the culture of Islam to life with stellar objects, striking pairings, moving images and music.
See also: Pakistani Truck is Canvas on Wheels
Back in the 1990s, a medieval synagogue ark door from Cairo was sold at a Florida estate auction house. It dated back to the Fatimid period in the 11th century; how the ark made its way from Egypt to America remains unclear. Two institutions jointly acquired the door in 2000: the Yeshiva University Museum and the Walters Art Museum of Baltimore. Now, they are presenting what they are dubbing a “biography” of this special ark door, which was once part of the Ben Ezra Synagogue, in an exhibit called Threshold to the Sacred.
Read More: The Arc of a Rare Ark Door