Marvellous Creatures: Animal Fables in Islamic Art

4 March - 11 July 2015

Museum of Islamic Art (Doha, Qatar)

On display in the museum’s Special Exhibitions Gallery, Marvellous Creatures focuses on the real and mythical animals that appear in the legends, tales, and fables of the Islamic world. Divided into the natural quadrants of fire, air, earth, and water, these creatures introduce well-known and beloved classics including Kalila wa Dimna, the Shahnameh, and One Thousand and One Nights.

The wide variety of objects presented in the Marvellous Creatures exhibition – manuscripts, textiles, ceramics, jewellery, glass, and metalwork – dating from the 10th to the 19th centuries, demonstrate the enduring appeal of these characters and stories across diverse cultures and generations. The illustrations and motifs seen in the exhibition reflect the diversity of Islamic art production. The exhibition takes visitors on a journey through a vibrant sensory experience, using storytelling in its variety of forms – from colourful illustrations and visual displays, to audio stories and animation.

In conjunction with the exhibition there will be a series of child friendly and family activities at MIA, including interactive storytelling, late night family tours, puppet shows and creative art workshops, including a workshop where children can create their own marvellous creatures. A colourfully-illustrated exhibition album, highlighting key objects and stories featured in the exhibition is also available at the MIA Gift Shop. For a full list of the educational activities that accompany the exhibition, please visit:

Qajar Women: Images of Women in 19th century Iran

8 April 2015 - 11 June 2016

Museum of Islamic Art (Doha, Qatar)

From 8 April, Qajar Women presents a completely new and innovative approach to Qajar art. Until now, the most popular representations of the Qajar era (1779 to 1925) have been of male sovereigns whose life-size portraits exaggerate masculinity to depict power. Yet this era is also characterised by artistic modernisation in Iran. This is particularly true of paintings and photography, in which women became essential characters in the events and scenes portrayed. The exhibition includes artworks that reflect various interpretations of female musicians, aristocratic women, women at the court and in private quarters, all exploring the rarely-told narratives of the Qajar artistic tradition.

A wide variety of objects, including lacquers, watercolours, manuscripts, jewellery, ceramics, and metalwork, are displayed in the Temporary Exhibition Galleries on the 4th floor of MIA. The exhibition is divided into four themes: ‘Notions of Beauty: Images of Women in Qajar Art’; ‘Daily Life’; ‘Women, Power, and Refinement’; and ‘Women as Symbols in Art.’ Qajar Women: Images of Women in 19th-Century Iran offers visitors a visually stunning introduction into this important period of art history. Works by contemporary artists inspired by Qajar iconography are also on view, demonstrating how the imagery of Qajar women continues to inspire artists today.

MIA is also offering special public programs in association with the exhibition, targeting women, academics, and families. These include daytime tours with exhibition curators, family activities on weekends, a learning beyond the classroom event scheduled for teachers, and many other programs. A special talk entitled ‘Beauty and Moustaches in Qajar Art’ will be delivered by the exhibition co-curators Dr. Mounia Chekhab-Abudaya and Dr. Nur Sobers-Khan in May 2015.

Arts of Islamic Lands: Selections from The al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
January 31, 2015 – January 30, 2016
The Museum’s landmark partnership with the Kuwait-based al-Sabah Collection and the cultural institution Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah continues with an expanded installation of Arts of Islamic Lands: Selections from The al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait. The renowned al-Sabah Collection is one of the greatest privately held collections of Islamic art in the world. The collaboration with the Museum, established in 2012, led to the 2013 Houston debut of 67 objects ranging from carpets and architectural fragments to exquisite ceramics, metalwork, jewelry, scientific instruments, and manuscripts.
This newly expanded installation more than triples the display, increasing the art on view to some 250 works that, together, present an impressive and comprehensive spectrum of Islamic art. Objects from the 8th to 18th centuries—made in North Africa, the Middle East, Turkey, India, the Iberian Peninsula, and Central Asia—demonstrate the development of techniques, craftsmanship, and aesthetics in Islamic visual culture.Among the highlights are a 16th-century Ottoman Turkish prayer carpet; a glass mosque lamp from 14th-century Cairo; an extraordinary earthenware bowl from 9th-century Iraq that transcends its humble function; early gold jewelry from Afghanistan and Syria; and opulent Mughal jewelry crafted in the refined kundan technique, including a brilliant bird pendant fabricated in late 16th-century India from gold, rubies, emeralds, diamonds, and rock crystals.

Woven Luxuries: Indian, Persian, and Turkish Velvets from the Indictor Collection
Asian Art Museum, San Francisco
March 13 – November 1, 2015

Silk velvets have been preeminent luxury textiles in many parts of the Islamic world and Europe, especially from the 15th century onwards. They were often used for clothing and furnishings, such as as carpets, spreads, bolsters, hangings, and exchanged as diplomatic gifts. The 11 textiles in this exhibition are selections from a private New York collection, providing a glimpse into the richness and diversity of Iranian, Indian and Turkish silk velvets. Spanning three distinct cultural areas with their own design sensibilities and tastes, this group of textiles showcases different techniques of velvet production and suggests their varied uses. Of special note are the two complete 17th-century carpets from India and Iran, each measuring nearly 6 by 4 feet and retaining not only their design elements but also their vibrant colors. These, along with nine other substantially sized textile fragments, show the cultural exchange between the Mughal, Safavid and Ottoman empires—linked by shifting ties of political, religious and economic rivalry.

Sensual Delights. Incense Burners and Rosewater Sprinklers from the World of Islam
The David Collection, Copenhagen
March 20 – September 6, 2015

This special exhibition focuses on the museum’s Islamic Collection and the two types of vessels that were used to fill the air with fragrances. Aromatic substances, and especially incense and rosewater, have played an important role in the Islamic world since ancient times, and still do to this very day. In contrast to personal perfumes, incense and rosewater were also part of social rituals, either together or separately, something that made special demands of their vessels. The National Museum of Denmark has lent the David Collection two incense burners and two rosewater sprinklers for the exhibition. Most of the pieces, however, are the David Collection’s own, supplemented by miniatures that show how the vessels were used. Visitors to the museum will be able to get a whiff of and study some of these aromatic substances in a specially designed diffuser.

The exhibition is organized by Dr. Joachim Meyer, The David Collection. A catalogue is published in Danish and English. Email:

Sultans of Deccan India, 1500-1700: Opulence and Fantasy
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
April 20-July 26, 2015

Opulence and fantasy characterize the art of India's Deccan courts during the rule of its sultans in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The diamond-rich region attracted artists, poets, writers, and traders from all over the world—including Iran, Turkey, Africa, and Europe—who were drawn to the Shi’a culture and material splendor of the courts. Under their mixed influence, captivating art styles of otherworldly charm evolved. At its zenith, the Deccan became home to Indian and Persian artists, the abode of African elites, and the place where European discoverers embraced new tastes in textiles and gems. By the end of the seventeenth century, the Deccan courts gave way to Mughal domination from the north, but their preceding efflorescence offers a glimpse of the imaginative heights reached in the arts of painting.

This exhibition brings together some two hundred of the finest works from major international, private, and royal collections. Featuring many remarkable loans from India, the exhibition—which is the most comprehensive museum presentation on this subject to date—explores the unmistakable character of classical Deccani art in various media: poetic lyricism in painting, lively creations in metalwork, and a distinguished tradition of textile production.

Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian: Infinite Possibility. Mirror Works and Drawings
The Guggenheim Museum, New York
March 13–June 3, 2015

This is the first U.S. museum exhibition of mirror works and drawings by Iranian artist Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian (b. Qazvin, Iran, 1924). Considered in relation to the Guggenheim’s historical commitment to abstraction, this presentation examines the artist’s rich body of work in its own right and as part of a transnational perspective on artistic production and its reception. After formative years in New York from 1945 to 1957, Monir returned to Iran. There, she further developed her artistic sensibility through encounters with traditional craftsmanship, indigenous art forms such as Turkoman jewelry and clothing, coffee house paintings (a popular form of Iranian narrative paintings), and the technique of reverse-glass painting, resulting in a period of artistic discovery that culminated in commissions in Iran and exhibitions in Europe and the United States. The Islamic Revolution in 1979 marked the beginning of Monir’s 26-year exile in New York, during which she focused on drawing, collage, commissions, and carpet and textile design. In 2004, when she finally returned to Iran, she reestablished her studio there and resumed working with some of the same craftsmen she had collaborated with in the 1970s.

This presentation includes plaster and mirror reliefs, large-scale mirror sculptures the artist refers to as “geometric families,” and works on paper, revealing the central role drawing has played in Monir’s practice and focusing on a sculptural and graphic oeuvre developed over more than 40 years (many examples of which have not been displayed publicly since the 1970s). This body of work is characterized by a merging of visual and spatial experience, coupled with the aesthetic traditions of Islamic architecture and decoration. Her use of geometry as form allows for, in the artist’s words, “infinite possibility.”

Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian: Infinite Possibility. Mirror Works and Drawings 1974–2014 is organized by the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, Porto, Portugal.

Islamic Bookmaking: Tools and Instruments
University College London-Qatar, Doha
April 15 – May 31, 2015

On the occasion of the Arabic Manuscript Day, University College London-Qatar will be hosting an exhibition about “Islamic Bookmaking: Tools and Instruments”, organized by the Islamic Bookmaking Research Group. The exhibition opening will be on the 15th of April 2015, 1:00 PM at UCL Qatar (Georgetown Building, Education City). The event will begin with an introduction from the organizer Mahmoud Zaki from UCL Qatar and a presentation by Dr. Nur Sobers-Khan from Museuem of Islamic Art, Doha. The images of the exhibition are of historical objects from a number of museums and libraries around the world. This event is the fifth in a series of exhibitions that took place in cities such as Muscat, Cairo and Kuwait.

Sanaz Mazinani: Threshold
Asian Art Museum, San Francisco
March 27 – May 3, 2015

Is there something beautiful about an explosion? This is one of many questions raised in a new and ambitious, site-specific installation by San Francisco artist Sanaz Mazinani. Threshold presents a video created with explosion scenes from 11 recent Hollywood movies, mirrored and multiplied beyond recognition. The resulting kaleidoscopic Islamic geometries of color, pattern and movement—inspired by the artist’s trips home to Iran—are reflected in dazzling laser-cut mirrored panels that line the space. This interplay between the architectural setting and the moving image results in a shift in perception, prompting audiences to consider the complexities of entertainment, mass media and the violence of war.

Islamic Art Now: Contemporary Art of the Middle East
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
February 1, 2015-ongoing

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) presents Islamic Art Now: Contemporary Art of the Middle East, the first major exhibition of LACMA's holdings of Middle Eastern contemporary art—the largest such institutional collection in the United States. In recent years, the parameters of Islamic art at LACMA have expanded to include contemporary works by artists from or with roots in the Middle East. Drawing inspiration from their own cultural traditions, these artists use techniques and incorporate imagery and ideas from earlier periods. As the first of a two-part exhibition program, Islamic Art Now features 25 works—including photography, sculpture, video, and installation—by 20 artists from Iran and the Arab world, including Wafaa Bilal, Lalla Essaydi, Hassan Hajjaj, Mona Hatoum, Susan Hefuna, Youssef Nabil, Shirin Neshat, and Mitra Tabrizian, among others. Most of the works in Islamic Art Now have never been displayed previously at LACMA.

Nasta‛liq: The Genius of Persian Calligraphy
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington DC
September 13, 2014–May 3, 2015 (extended)

Nasta‛liq: The Genius of Persian Calligraphy is the first exhibition of its kind to focus on nasta‛liq, a calligraphic script that developed in the fourteenth century in Iran and remains one of the most expressive forms of aesthetic refinement in Persian culture to this day. More than twenty works ranging in date from 1400 to 1600, the height of nasta‛liq’s development, tell the story of the script’s transformation from a simple conveyer of the written word to an artistic form of its own. The narrative thread emphasizes the achievements of four of the greatest master calligraphers—Mir Ali Tabrizi, Sultan Ali Mashhadi, Mir Ali Haravi, and Mir Imad Hasani—whose manuscripts and individual folios are still appreciated not only for their content but also for their technical virtuosity and visual quality.