NEW YORK – Preparing the venue over the past eight years, valuable unique Islamic treasures will once again be on the view at New York’s metropolitan museum which gathers one of the biggest Islamic art treasures in the world.
“The opening of these extraordinary new galleries underscores our mission as an encyclopedic museum and provides a unique opportunity to convey the grandeur and complexity of Islamic art and culture at a pivotal moment in world history,” Met director Thomas Campbell told Agence France Presse (AFP) on Tuesday, October 25.
Spending some $50 million, New York’s biggest and most comprehensive art museum unveils on November 1 its “New Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia.”
The museum’s galleries have been refurbished and re-envisioned to provide a show-stopping setting for the Metropolitan’s Islamic art collection.
Opening 15 galleries, it will display 1,200 breathtaking works from the Middle East and North Africa which are arranged in a stunning new exhibition space.
The 15 new galleries trace the course of Islamic civilization all over 13 centuries, covering a broad geographic expanse encompassing the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and Central and South Asia.
“This new geographic orientation signals a revised perspective on this important collection, recognizing that the monumentality of Islam did not create a single, monolithic artistic expression, but instead connected a vast geographic expanse through centuries of change and cultural influence,” Campbell said.
“The public will find galleries filled with magnificent works of art that evoke the plurality of the Islamic tradition and the vast cross-fertilization of ideas and artistic forms that has shaped our shared cultural heritage.”
The unique pieces were acquired by collectors in the United States between the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the early 1930s.
Many works came to the American market as exotic treasures as interest in and travel to the Middle East from Europe and the United States exploded.
The wide variety of exhibited items reflected the effect of interconnections between different cultures within Islamic art all through the past 13 centuries.
“I think that what these galleries provide is a much better understanding of the complexity and also the interconnection between different cultures within Islamic art,” curator Mechthild Baumeister told AFP.
“If you think about the art in these galleries, it spans 13 centuries,” she said.
“It’s important to go back in history to understand the development of a culture, development of a style, interaction between cultures. Nothing exists in isolation.”
Showing invaluable items, the Metropolitan exhibits pieces from numerous domains including science, such as a 13th-century astrolabe, the tool used by astronomers, navigators and astrologers of the era.
It also shows masterpieces of architecture such an example of Indian windows made from intricately carved wood.
Other Iranian statues made from stucco, measuring a meter and a half (five feet) tall, also represented the world of sculpture.
Beautiful Arabic calligraphy appeared next to ancient Qurans and ornate weaponry, including swords encrusted with rubies, silver and gold.
One gem is the recreation of the reception room of a large residence in Damascus, dating back to the 18th century.
Its marble floor has a geometric design with magnificent red velour pillows strewn throughout and its wooden walls are inscribed with verses from the Quran.
“It’s one of the highlights of the galleries,” Baumeister said.
“It’s one of our biggest achievements.”
The Metropolitan museum is not the first gallery that exhibited Islamic arts and inventions.
The "1001 Inventions" exhibition, which toured different American states, including New York and California, has highlighted contributions by Muslim scholars to the development of astronomy, math, architecture, medicine and engineering.
The exhibition has earlier made successful tours in London and Istanbul.
The United States is home to an estimated Muslim minority of nearly eight million.
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