Friday, November 18, 2011

NYC Museum Galleries Refocus Gaze on Islamic Art

By Ellen French
Folio from the Blue Qur'an [Watch: Slideshow]
NEW YORK - Fifteen renovated galleries offer fresh perspective on the Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection of more than 12,000 Islamic works of art spanning 13 centuries and an area ranging from Spain to India. While the collection was once succinctly termed Islamic Art, the museum now describes the works inhabiting the galleries as "Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia." The new emphasis on geography grew out of the view that while religion unifies the collection, region diversifies it. "Islam is not a single lens through which we view and interpret the art," said Navina Najat Haidar, curator and coordinator in the Met Museum's department of Islamic art. "Rather, it's an inverted lens that reveals great diversity." A striking, unifying element of the Met's new galleries is calligraphy, a form of artistic expression that acquired great prestige because it was used to transcribe the Koran.[link]