Thursday, December 22, 2016

History, politics, and the art of Islam are explored in an illuminating exhibition.

By Lee Lawrence
Quran folio (Abbasid period, late 9th-early 10th century) PHOTO: MUSEUM OF TURKISH AND ISLAMIC ARTS, ISTANBUL
WASHINGTON, DC---Devoid of illustrations, written in a language only one half of 1% of Americans speak at home, and associated with a religion some terrorists invoke when committing mass murder—the Quran is an ambitious, courageous and somewhat fraught choice for the subject of a major museum show. Hats off to the Smithsonian’s Freer-Sackler for tackling it. “The Art of the Qur’an: Treasures From the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts” may use the occasional decorative object to add visual interest in a gallery, but its focus never wavers from the book—when and how people penned its text, the mesmerizing illuminations and bindings it inspired, and the history of individual volumes. [link]