First major exhibit on the Qur’an in the US, at the Smithsonian’s Sackler Gallery in Washington, displays manuscripts over a period of almost a millennium.
The Art of the Qur’an: Treasures from the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts is on view at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M Sackler Gallery through 20 February 2017. The last significant survey of Islam’s holy book in the west was held at the British Museum in London in 1976. Into that void comes the first major exhibit on the Qur’an in the United States, The Art of the Qur’an: Treasures from the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, at the Sackler Gallery in Washington DC. On display are more than 60 richly decorated manuscripts that span nearly a millennium, cover a vast area of the Islamic world and encompass an array of styles and formats, from simple sheets of parchment to large bound tomes.
The exhibit offers “an unparalleled view of some of the greatest [Islamic] calligraphy, illumination and binding”, said museum director Julian Raby. “Above all, we convey the sense of how artists from north Africa to Afghanistan found different ways to honor the same sacred text of Islam.”
The objects are primarily drawn from the superb holdings of the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts (TIEM) in Istanbul, which has loaned 47 priceless works dating from the late seventh to early 17th centuries, the majority of which have never before been shown outside of Turkey; these are juxtaposed with about 16 items from the Freer and Sackler museums’ permanent collection.
While some may read a deeper significance into the timing of the exhibit – which opens amid an extremely contentious and politicized atmosphere surrounding Muslims in the US – museum officials say it is entirely happenstance. It’s the culmination of a collaboration between the two institutions, for which the seed was planted back in 2010, when the TIEM organized its own monumental Qur’an survey.
Massumeh Farhad, the Freer and Sackler’s chief curator and curator of Islamic art, draws a parallel with the Sackler’s landmark 2006 show on biblical manuscripts, In the Beginning: Bibles Before the Year 1000. “Doing this exhibition is really a continuation of bringing the cultures of Asia, whether social, political or religious, to America, especially to Washington,” Farhad said.
The Art of the Qur’an aims to introduce visitors to the Islamic holy book as both foundational sacred text – the divine message for Muslims, received by the Prophet Muhammad between 610 and 632 – and work of art. Early sections present key aspects of the Qur’an, such as its references to previous prophets (including Abraham and Moses) and continuity with earlier monotheistic scriptures, and themes including revelation, Judgment Day and the mercy of God.
Continue reading at: The Guardian