The Detroit Institute of Arts’ (DIA) long-anticipated new gallery of Islamic art opens to the public on Feb. 28.
Rohama reported: A special pre-grand opening celebration will be held Saturday, Feb. 20 at 6 p.m., featuring an exclusive preview, a sumptuous Silk Road dinner, musical entertainment and a guest speaker.
Proceeds benefit the museum’s Asian & Islamic Art Forum, which supports Asian, Islamic and Ancient Middle Eastern Art public programs and art acquisitions.
The new gallery includes works of art from the Mediterranean region, the Middle East, Central Asia and India, and spans the 7th – early 20th centuries.
Planning the gallery provided the opportunity to study the collection and to carry out conservation treatments and scientific analysis, which resulted in a new understanding of some works of art and the rediscovery of important objects that had remained unrecognized for decades.
Among them are a very large, rare, early Ottoman mosque candlestick from around 1500, and a 15th-century Timurid cut-tile panel in the shape of a star.
The museum uses the term Islamic art to refer to works created in areas governed by Muslims and where Islamic culture has had significant influence.
As Islamic art comes from a vast area that includes peoples of diverse cultures, languages, and faiths, both Christian and Jewish sacred manuscripts from the Islamic world will also be exhibited alongside exquisite Islamic manuscripts in an area devoted to sacred writings.
In addition to works from the DIA’s collection, the new gallery incorporates significant works of art on loan from nine public and private collections.
Most of these are long-term loans to the DIA, but manuscripts from collections including the University of Michigan’s Special Collections Library will be rotated in regularly.
The Islamic galleries are arranged according to the thematic stories the art has to tell. These are expressed in seven major themes: The Silk Road; Masterpieces of Carpet Weaving; Art of the Great Empires: Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal; The Medieval Islamic World: Urban Settings and Goods; Art of the Mamluks; Mediterranean Trade and Spanish Lusterware 1250–1500; and Sacred Writings from the Islamic World.
In keeping with the museum’s visitor-centered approach, multi-layered labels and other interpretive devices will be interspersed in the galleries to help visitors engage with the art. Among these are an interactive “carpet-making” activity, a video of a master calligrapher at work, a large map of the areas represented and the popular Eye Spy labels.
The DIA began collecting Islamic art in the 1890s. Some of the most important masterpieces in the collection were acquired under Wilhelm Valentiner, director from the 1920s to the 1940s.
These works include an exceptional Timurid Quran, a splendid enameled bottle made in Syria in the Mamluk period, the largest surviving 17th-century Ottoman velvet summer carpet in the world, and an exquisite, all-silk animal carpet probably made for the Safavid ruler, Shah Tahmasp (r. 1524-76).
Recent acquisitions include an impressive early Iznik blue and white charger from Ottoman Turkey, a Quran taken by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan from the library of the Uzbek ruler Nadhr Muhammad Khan in 1646, an unusual Mughal painting of mystics seated by a lake, and a small, personal Quran, copied by the Ottoman royal calligrapher Mehmed Rasim in 1730, which once belonged to Princess Nazimah Sultan.