In this entry, I explore the splendiferous collections of The Art of the Arab Lands , Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and later South Asia section at the Metropolitan Museum of New York City. I love to gallivant inside museums of this great metropolis in quest for art, religion, history, and identity that trace back to the Arab Lands and the Islamic world.
The minute details in the artistic expression of each collection is intriguing. The selection of pieces are exhibited using materials such as, porcelain, glazed ceramics, mosaic, wooden carvings, metalwork, engravings and textile. Calligraphy is beautifully stretched along most pieces, narrating to its spectators a story of love, art, religion, and cosmopolitanism.
The Art of the Arab Lands section at the MET, reopened November 1st, 2011 after an eight-year renovation project with much expanded new installations, organized by Sheila Canby, the curator in charge of the department of Islamic Art, thinking and collaborating with the project coordinator, Navina Najat Haidar. An article in the New York Times explains the Islamic section as: “Visually resplendent, the art itself, some 1,200 works spanning more than 1,000 years, is beyond fabulous. An immense cultural vista – necessary, liberating, intoxicatingly pleasurable – has been restored to the city.”
Each piece has diverse functionality in shapes, forms, materials, time-frame, and colors. The color blue is the most dominant in the gallery. Blue represents good luck and fortune which was widely famous in the Muslim Dynasty covering a wide range of cities, countries, and continents. A splendid work of architecture inspired by religion. Islamic history signifies glory in this space. The works of arts in Asia, Africa, and in Europe. They are defined through generations and presentations from the Safavids, Abbasids, Ottomans, Persians, Egyptians and the Muslim world ranging from the 7th to 19th centuries A.D.
Here is why you should spend your lunch break or other time exploring the section of the Art of the Arab Lands from countries Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and later, South Asia:
Religion plays a great role in the reflection of most pieces in the Islamic section. I was particularly inspired by the Minbar of Abu Bakr el Siddiq, where he first stood on a wooden foundation to call for prayers. The Minbar, or pulpit, is a podium with stairs and doors. Each minbar is placed in a mosque in the center direction of prayer where the imam, the prayer leader, delivers a sermons, at Friday noon prayers, the main prayer service of the week. I never thought I could be standing in such close proximity with the Minbar of Abu Bakr el Siddiq, Prophet Muhammed’s advisor. I couldn’t believe the beauty of the wooden structure, material, and high quality of details.
Iran, Isfahan: – On the left, is one of the most significant works in the Islamic section, the prayer niche, or mihrab, was originally set towards the direction of prayer, qibla, constructed in a theological school in Isfahan. The great 11-foot-high mosaic-tiled 14th century mihrab, conveys a sense of monumentality and familiarity to the space. The mihrab is constructed by piecing a myriad of cut glazed tiles and mosaic tile-work with intricate arabesque and calligraphic designs.
Next, I move on to Andalusia and The Arts of The Books section where the three Holy books are displayed, playing a great role in the reflection of art in Islamic history and intertwined relations with Christianity and Judaism.
Andalusia was not the only region of the medieval Islamic world in which the encounter between Muslims, Christians, and Jews found expressionism in visual arts, but in location at the western frontier of that world ensured that it played an essential role in cultural exchange. An excellent example of this exchange is found in the Andalusian manuscript tradition, where the prolific Qur’an production sponsored by Muslim patrons was reflected, both in materials and designs, in Christians and Jewish sacred texts copied in the region. – copied from the Metropolitan Museum display.
I then move on to these intriguing portraits:
Finally, I end this magical tour with my favorite collection of rugs and textiles from Iran.
The Islamic Section is one of the world’s most comprehensive collections in the Metropolitan Museum that truly brings out the magnificence and cultural diversity of the Muslim world and Arab Lands.
See you at MET!