NY museum galleries refocus gaze on Islamic art

Thu Nov 17, 2011 1:08pm EST
 
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By Ellen Freilich

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Fifteen renovated galleries offer fresh perspective on the Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection of more than 12,000 Islamic works of art spanning 13 centuries and an area ranging from Spain to India.

About 1,200 pieces of art will be on view at any one time with displays of textiles and works on paper changing frequently due to the sensitivity of these materials to light.

A re-thinking of the Islamic art collection, developed alongside the museum's years-long renovation project, led to the new galleries being named to reflect the range of nations and empires that produced the art.

While the collection was once succinctly termed Islamic Art, the museum now describes the works inhabiting the galleries as "Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia."

The new emphasis on geography grew out of the view that while religion unifies the collection, region diversifies it.

"Islam is not a single lens through which we view and interpret the art," said Navina Najat Haidar, curator and coordinator in the Met Museum's department of Islamic art. "Rather, it's an inverted lens that reveals great diversity."

This multi-faceted approach stresses the immense variety of artistic expression.

"It's less linear and more integrated with world culture and world heritage," Haidar said.   Continued...

 
<p>2. Brazier, second half of the 13th century Egypt Brass; cast , inlaid with silver and black compound H. 13&ndash;7/8 in. (35.2 cm) W. 15&ndash;1/2 in. (39.4 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Edward C. Moore Collection, Bequest of Edward C. Moore, 1891 (91.1.540). REUTERS/Metropolitan Museum of Art/Handout</p>