The Museum's collection of Islamic art ranges in date from the seventh to the nineteenth century. Its nearly twelve thousand objects reflect the great diversity and range of the cultural traditions of Islam, with works from as far westward as Spain and Morocco and as far eastward as Central Asia and India. Comprising sacred and secular objects, the collection reveals the mutual influence of artistic practices such as calligraphy, and the exchange of motifs such as vegetal ornament (the arabesque) and geometric patterning in both realms.
Posted: Tuesday, January 19, 2016
As climate change shows its devastating consequences the world over, it is not only our lives that are affected, but also our collective material culture and historical sites. Egypt is one of many countries now entering the wind and rain belt. Though still famous for its sweltering summer days and mostly moderate winters, Egypt has experienced biting cold and, more significantly, torrential rain that for many Egyptians (including me) is unprecedented.
Posted: Thursday, January 14, 2016
Posted: Tuesday, January 5, 2016
Even though most paintings become richer when viewed up close, the work of Shiva Ahmadi expands greatly with close looking, revealing itself in ways I couldn't have anticipated, even after examining the highest-quality digital image files. I first experienced Ahmadi's work in person at a 2014 Asia Society exhibition, Shiva Ahmadi: In Focus. I remember being transfixed by the piece on view: Lotus, an animation made from a 2013 watercolor triptych. It was incredible to see her meticulously painted figures come alive in their environment. Beyond their visual allure, Ahmadi also imbues her compositions with so much narrative content, that to see this narrative actually expand over time—animated through movement—deepened the work's meaning immensely for me. My only wish at the time was to get even closer.
Posted: Wednesday, December 16, 2015
This past October, The Met hosted a conference in Istanbul with Columbia University and Koç University about the crucial issues around cultural heritage preservation in Syria and Iraq. The gathering allowed us to convene key participants from both countries who would not otherwise have been able to get a visa to attend such a meeting in the United States. These participants shared their firsthand accounts of the challenging situations under which they are currently working as they try to salvage the heritage of their countries.
Posted: Monday, December 14, 2015
My residency at The Metropolitan Museum of Art has prompted me to make the opportunities and experiences I have over the year an integral part of both my studio and teaching practices—two elements of my life that I have continuously merged over the years. My goal is to make the interchange between these two elements as seamless as possible, and I have been determined to allow the Met residency to saturate my work and my teaching.
Posted: Tuesday, December 8, 2015
In Islamic art, textiles and carpets are in some ways the most emblematic works of their respective subtraditions. Carpets are by far the largest works of Islamic art, apart from architecture, in addition to being the most expensive and highly valued at the time of their creation. Textiles, especially silks, were important both artistically and economically, and costumes made from silk were perhaps, culturally, the most important art form. Both textiles and carpets traveled widely, and brought cross-cultural artistic contacts into fruition throughout the world, becoming an integral part of distant material culture. I find that textiles and carpets are also incredibly seductive. Their combination of texture, color, and relationships to other art forms made me, a would-be architectural historian, into a lover of these works for life.
Posted: Wednesday, December 2, 2015
The exhibition The Royal Hunt: Courtly Pursuits in Indian Art, on view through December 8, brings together Rajasthani and Mughal paintings from the collections of the Met's Department of Asian Art and Department of Islamic Art, as well as from private collections. These paintings, which depict the extravagance and pageantry of the hunting culture in the royal courts of India, are shown alongside a selection of Indian hunting weapons and accessories from the Department of Arms and Armor. Among the objects are painted matchlocks, an elephant goad, gunpowder flasks carved with fantastical creatures, weapons decorated with elephants and tigers, and other tools of the hunt.
Posted: Tuesday, December 1, 2015
At a recent MetFridays event in the Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia, I spoke about prayer rugs (seccades)—not as a scholar of the Islamic arts, but as an artist. In 1997 I started a series of drawings based on my assumptions of what people pray for and why they pray. I eventually turned these drawings into a suite of serigraph prints entitled Ten Prayers that I exhibited, in September 1998, at my first one-man show at the Yapi Kredi Cultural Center's Kazim Taskent Gallery in Istanbul. These works then led to a series of larger "rug" pieces done on rice paper, which combined the motifs I was using in my paintings (masks, birds, skulls, stylized flowers, cosmological symbols, and figures) with the formal structure of Anatolian carpets.
Posted: Tuesday, November 24, 2015
"O your hair," he said,
"it's like rainclouds
moving between branches of lightning.
It parts five ways
between gold ornaments
braided with a length of flowers
and the fragrant screwpine . . ."
So wrote the Tamil poet Kapilar, nearly two thousand years ago, of the beauty of a woman's braid adorned with jewels and sweet flowers. In the Department of Islamic Art, there is one such gold ornament, a jadanagam from eighteenth- or nineteenth-century South India on view in gallery 463, that never fails to bring me to a thrilled standstill as it shimmers under the light. Intended to adorn a woman's plait, or braid, the jadanagam features a large disc at the top that the wearer would secure to the back of her head with black cord, and a crimson silk tassel at its base to mark the end of the braid. The name alone suggests a graceful sinuousness: in Tamil, jadai refers to the braid and nagam means "snake." Combined with garlands of fragrant jasmine, the jadanagam—as Kapilar's poem suggests—would have made for a heady, mesmerizing effect.
Posted: Tuesday, November 24, 2015
As a recent graduate intern in the Department of Asian Art, I had the chance to observe the installation of the exhibition The Royal Hunt: Courtly Pursuits in Indian Art, on view through December 8, 2015. This was a rare opportunity for me to not only interact with a diverse set of experts across the Museum, all of whom worked collaboratively towards putting the exhibition together, but especially to examine up-close the objects on display.