More than 120 of the finest examples of Islamic arts, ranging from jewel encrusted objects, rare ceramics, finely detailed miniatures and illustrated written texts, have been selected for the internationally touring exhibition The Arts of Islam - Islamic Art and Patronage: Treasures from Kuwait. This exhibition will be on view at the Art Gallery of New South Wales from 30 November until 27 January 2003.
The works in the exhibition are from the al-Sabah Collection, which is housed at the Kuwait National Museum. This collection has been formed by principal members of the Kuwait Royal Family, Sheik Nasir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah and his wife Sheikha Hassah Sabah al-Salem al-Sabah. Begun in 1975, the collection is regarded as one of the most important in the world, containing as it does a comprehensive collection of rare and significant Islamic art objects.
This Royal collection was placed in the care of the Kuwait National Museum in 1983. During the Gulf War in 1990 the Museum buildings were ransacked and destroyed, but most of the pieces had been taken before the destruction and therefore saved. Since then the al-Sabah Collection has mostly either been in storage or touring the world.
"The worlds of Islam reach from the Iberian peninsula to the islands of Indonesia. The arts of Islam reflect the cultural and artistic opportunities of such a breadth of place and history in works as varied as exquisite calligraphies, Indian and Persian miniatures, ceramics, metalwork and of course the hallmark carpets. The arts of Islam are not well known in Australia and this most welcome and timely exhibition will aesthetically entrance and profoundly inform," said Edmund Capon, Director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Created between the 8th and 18th centuries, these Islamic arts reflect the wide range produced in countries stretching from Spain to India and throughout the Middle East. While Islam has a wide geographic spread, common themes and principles of design unite the art produced; and patterns from nature or geometry are found throughout the Islamic world.
Many of the pieces were made by unknown artists who worked for courts or wealthy individuals. Royal patronage was considered an obligation to provide for the community’s spiritual life as well as sponsoring non-religious culture. Royal families sponsored the construction of mosques and other religious buildings including their decoration by artists of the highest calibre. In the 21st century, the Royal Family of Kuwait continues this tradition of patronage through supporting and sponsoring the Kuwait National Museum.
Portrait of a Painter.
Illustration from an album,
India, 17th century.
On loan from the al-Sabah Collection,
Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah,
Kuwait National Museum