The Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) today announced that Kosmos Energy has been named the Presenting Sponsor of the Keir Collection of Islamic Art for its inaugural years of exhibitions and installations. The partnership between the Museum and the Dallas-based international oil and gas exploration and production company will provide $800,000 of support for the Museum’s forthcoming series of special exhibitions, installations in its collection galleries, and a prospective touring exhibition over an initial multi-year period. The sponsorship also includes resources to facilitate loans of items from the Keir Collection to other domestic and international institutions for related exhibitions and installations.
In the late 1970s, the Syrian capital of Damascus was experiencing a building boom. In the al-Bahsa quarter, for instance, a clutch of old houses were demolished to make way for a new roadway. Among the homes: an 18th century courtyard house with at least one elaborate reception room crafted from hand-painted wood panels and inlaid stone. Before the house was destroyed, a Lebanese dealer bought the contents of the room — floors, fountain and wood panels — and for roughly three decades, warehoused them in Beirut, where they somehow managed to survive the Lebanese Civil War.
Thomas W. Lentz, Cabot director of the Harvard Art Museums, today announced that he would step down at the end of the academic year — a surprising and apparently unexpected development that comes less than three months after the November 16 gala reopening of the wholly renovated, reconfigured museums complex. The more than decade-long reconstruction and consolidation of the collections in a new space built in, around, and above the original Fogg structure, with extensive teaching and conservation facilities included, was the focus of Lentz’s work since his arrival in late 2003. An expert on Islamic art (specifically, Persian painting), he earned his Ph.D. at Harvard in 1985, and immediately before returning to Cambridge to assume the museums’ directorship had served as director of the Smithsonian Institution’s international art museums, including the Freer and Sackler galleries and the National Museum of African Art.
Read More: Thomas Lentz to Leave Harvard Art Museums
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art announced Tuesday its intention to lend more than 130 pieces of its Islamic art collection to a museum under construction in Saudi Arabia. The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, scheduled to open in 2016, will show the LACMA pieces along with a new acquisition, a never-before shown 18th century room from a home in Damascus, Syria.
At a time when anything associated with Muslims or Islam may produce responses ranging from unease to outright hostility, the new Aga Khan Museum in Toronto counters those sentiments with a thoughtfully-designed, tranquil place that honors centuries of Islamic art in a space welcoming to all. The Aga Khan Museum, which opened in September, is the result of nearly 20 years of planning and construction. It’s the creation of the museum’s chairman of the board, the Aga Khan, an honorific title inherited by Shah Karim al-Hussaini, a 1959 Harvard University graduate and British citizen who’s founder and chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network and said to be one of the richest royals in the world. I visited the museum just before it opened to the public while I was in the city for the Toronto International Film Festival. It’s a world-class attraction and, along with the nearby Ontario Science Center, is well worth a dedicated visit to Toronto.
Read More: A Look at Toronto’s New Aga Khan Museum
See also: Rethinking ‘Islamic Art’
For seven years, exhibitions in Asia and Europe have showcased treasures owned by the Aga Khan, the spiritual head of an estimated 10 million to 15 million Shia Ismaili Muslims world-wide. The collection of some 1,000 objects has now alighted in its permanent home, the recently opened Aga Khan Museum, the first institution in North America devoted primarily to what it terms the “artistic, intellectual, and scientific heritage of Islamic civilizations.” The 300 or so items on display date from the eighth through the 19th centuries and come from as far west as Morocco and Spain and as far east as India, Indonesia and China, with Egypt, Turkey, Iran and other lands in between.
Read More: Rethinking ‘Islamic Art’
If you haven’t quite found your way yet to the new Aga Khan Museum, you really should. As far as I am concerned, its opening was the single most significant style event of 2014. Not only is the building itself, by the Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki, a glittering, winged visual poem of Brazilian granite, glass and aluminum, and the Aga Khan’s own collection of Islamic art and antiquities impressive, the museum’s beautiful and timely mission to promote cross-cultural understanding and interconnectedness — and to place it here in the jumble of our amazingly diverse city — is itself an inspiration.
They chose a pretty piece for last. Photographer John Tsantes had placed the “Seated Princess” — an opaque watercolor and gold painting that is part of the famed Islamic collection of the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery — on his table and focused the cutting-edge digital camera mounted overhead. And in the split-second it took for the camera’s shutter to close, the museum completed a multi-year effort to digitize its 40,000-item collection. The 400-year-old artwork was the last of works owned by the Smithsonian’s Asian art museums to be digitally recorded. The images go online Jan. 1, making this boutique Smithsonian the first of the franchise to share its entire collection with a global audience.
Read More: Freer, Sackler Galleries Going Global
Eighteen years in the planning, the $300m Aga Khan Museum and Ismaili Centre complex in Toronto consists of two important buildings by octogenarian master architects – Japan’s Fumihiko Maki for the museum and India’s Charles Correa for the centre – in a new city park by Lebanon-based landscape architect Vladimir Djurovic. Exhibition design is by Adrien Gardère from Paris, so this is all as international as could be. The aim is to celebrate the artistic, intellectual and scientific achievements of Muslim societies from ancient times to the present, and to serve the Ismaili community of the area.
Read More: In Search of Harmony
See also: The Aga Khan Museum: Faith Healer
The Aga Khan Museum is glistening confidently, almost defiantly, beneath overcast skies when monocle visits. Opened in September on the outskirts of Toronto, it is North America’s first repository of artworks and artefacts from the Muslim world. The Aga Khan, the France-based spiritual leader of an estimated 15 million Ismaili Muslims, conceived the project 20 years ago. “The objective is to educate the world not through the formal language of textbooks but through the language of objects, which have emotional impact on both young and old,” says Luis Monreal, general manager of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.
Read More: The Aga Khan Museum: Faith Healer
The low-slung, white-granite Aga Khan Museum in north-east Toronto shimmers through the autumn leaves. On first view the newly opened 17-acre site seems like an image out of a desert dream. It has a garden with five reflecting pools, as well as a dramatic, glass-domed prayer hall and a community centre for local Shia Ismaili Muslims. (The Aga Khan is spiritual leader and adviser to the world’s 20m Ismailis.) This 21st-century evocation of the Muslim East — an unexpected sight in a city that gets covered in snow for months each year — makes a fantastical introduction to a museum of Islamic arts.
One of the world’s most unique art collections, curated by Muslim royalty, opened recently not in Dubai, Tehran, London or even Paris — but just over the border in Toronto. The Canadian city famous for its troubled former mayor and frigid winters is now known among cognoscenti for one of the top Muslim art and culture collections anywhere, curated in a glass and granite space specifically designed to showcase the diversity of Muslim cultures in the West. The Aga Khan Museum is being hailed as the first museum in North America dedicated to Muslim art and culture — and its location makes a statement that goes beyond the impressive exhibits.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, art historian Aimée Froom was only a few days into her new gig as the Brooklyn Museum’s Hagop Kevorkian Associate Curator of Islamic Art, her first job out of graduate school. The events of 9/11 changed the field of Islamic art history, Froom recently told me, forcing her and her colleagues to take on a more public role in pushing back against misperceptions of Islamic culture.
Amid a new and especially grisly rise of radical fundamentalism in the Middle East, the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) of the Ismaili community, one of the most progressive branches of the Shia Islam, has inaugurated a new Ismaili Center and a museum for Islamic art in Toronto–the first of its kind in North America. The new campus is designed to serve as a gateway into the historic and artistic tradition of Islam “at a time when such a gateway is profoundly needed,” explained Prince Amyn Aga Khan, one of the benefactors of the project, during the inauguration of the campus this fall.
Gary Tinterow, director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, has announced the appointment of Aimée E. Froom as curator of Islamic art. She joins Mr. Tinterow and Mahrukh Tarapor, the Museum’s senior advisor for international initiatives, in expanding the Arts of the Islamic World program at the MFAH. “After a lengthy international search, I am delighted that Aimée Froom has joined our staff,” Mr. Tinterow said in announcing the appointment. “Her credentials, curatorial experience, and scholarly accomplishments will provide an excellent platform from which she can grow our collection and deepen our programming based on the extraordinary loans from The al-Sabah Collection, in collaboration with Kuwaiti cultural organization Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah.”
The newly-inaugurated Aga Khan Museum in Toronto is a multifaceted building of fabulous architectural detail that transforms the building into being, not only a home to over 1,000 precious artifacts from the Iberian Peninsula to China but to a functioning lyrical space that uses light play to fascinate the public. In many ways it’s a temple to the graciousness of Islamic thought that is a foundation of the Aga Khan’s ethos. His Highness Prince Shah Karim Al Hussaini Aga Khan IV commented that the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto reflects his families’ ongoing commitment to pluralism and to the promotion of understanding between civilizations, religions and races.
See also: Decoding the Muslim Past
“For the 30,000-strong Ismaili community that calls Toronto home, this museum is an attempt to demystify Islam,” says a museum guide, who takes visitors on an enlightening 60-minute tour of the permanent collection comprising of more than 1,000 artifacts. Having opened its doors this year on September 18, the museum has tapped into Aga Khan’s private collection, showcasing ancient books and hand-crafted manuscripts from the Holy Quran to Shah Tahmasp’s illustrated version of Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh. An audio recording of the great epic is also recited along the alcove by the display for a complete sensory experience.
Read More: Decoding the Muslim Past
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is known for a lot of things: its giant rock, its rack of lampposts and that crazy mint-green building by Bruce Goff that looks like a totally ’70s samurai helmet. But it also has an extraordinary collection of art from the Islamic world, with more than 1,700 objects dating back to the early Islamic era (which began in the 7th century). The collection includes an ethereally translucent 14th century Egyptian lamp, a majestic 16th century Iranian silk rug and an entire fountain harvested from an 18th century Syrian home.
The Aga Khan is a smiling man, genial, with twinkling eyes and never less than a faint trace of benign good will turning up the corners of his mouth. He smiled all the way through a speech last month at the opening of the new Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, especially while alluding to the innate happiness embodied in the branch of Shiite Islam of which he is the spiritual leader, Ismailism: “We are a community that welcomes the smile,” he said.
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.
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.
See also: Maki’s Aga Khan Museum Makes it Debut
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
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.
See also: Aga Khan Museum Opens in Toronto
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
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.
See also: Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum Revealed