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The Islamic Art Galleries at The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Walking Guide Paperback – 15 Jan 2014
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About the Author
Navina Hider is Curator of Islamic Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Kendra Weisbin is Research Assistant in the Department of Islamic Art.
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There are four tours:
Tracing the Course of Islamic Civilisation through the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and Later South Asia
Dimensions of Islamic Faith and Practice
The Royal Arts: Courtly Splendour and Imperial Patronage
Interconnections and Cultural Exchange
The Met's description of the treasures here far outdoes my efforts:
"On November 1, 2011, the Museum opened a suite of fifteen dramatic New Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia. The greatly enlarged, freshly conceived, and completely renovated galleries house the Metropolitan's renowned collection of Islamic art—one of the finest and most comprehensive collections of this material in the world. Design features within the new space highlight both the diversity and the interconnectedness of the numerous cultures represented here; multiple entryways allow visitors to approach the new galleries—and the art displayed within—from different perspectives.
"In sequence, the fifteen new galleries trace the course of Islamic civilization over a span of thirteen centuries, from the Middle East to 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. 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.
"Although the galleries represent a vast territory over a long period of time, the diverse artworks shown here are nonetheless unified in several distinctive ways. Primary among these is the extensive use of Arabic script, which resulted in exceptional examples of calligraphy—often in conventional media, such as metalwork or architectural elements—and virtuosic achievements in the arts of the book. A profound love of embellishment is often expressed through intricately interlaced, complex geometric forms that are most familiar to us in textiles, woodwork, and tilework. There are many examples of luxury materials, due to royal patronage. And technical expertise of the highest level is always evident, no matter what the medium. Because the objects in the galleries are primarily secular in nature, they can easily be appreciated both for their innate utility and for their astonishing beauty.
"The collection comprises more than twelve thousand works of art drawn from an area that extends from Spain in the west to India in the east. Some twelve hundred works of art in all media are on view at any time, representing all major regions and artistic styles, from the seventh century onward. (Displays of textiles and works on paper will change frequently due to the sensitivity of these materials to light.)"
Despite my personal limitations, visiting these galleries, on the ground or in my library with this superb guide, is a wonderfully inspiring experience.
Robert C. Ross