About the Beauty and Belief Exhibition
Brigham Young University’s Museum of Art Seeks to Build Bridges of Understanding Between Western and Islamic Cultures
Upcoming exhibition offers educational experiences for all ages
“BEAUTY AND BELIEF: CROSSING BRIDGES WITH THE ARTS OF ISLAMIC CULTURE”
OPENS FEBRUARY 24, 2012 AT THE BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY MUSEUM OF ART, PROVO, UT
Unique in its approach, this exhibit, offers access to Islamic culture, providing ‘a view from within’ by project director, Tunisian born Dr. Sabiha Al Khemir. As an introduction to the arts of Islamic culture, this exhibition aims to bridge differences and inspire insight through beauty. To address the question, “What makes Islamic Art, Islamic?” Dr. Al Khemir creates a show that combines historical and geographic background with succeeding sections of calligraphy, ﬁgurative imagery and pattern.
The exploration of themes in the exhibition creates a space to encounter the culture of Islam through its visual language. The approach means to raise questions of cultural signiﬁcance for each object in order to build bridges and bring cultures together. Beauty and Belief challenges assumptions on all sides and offers a space for dialogue. For example, the exhibit aims to correct the assumption held by Muslims and non-Muslims alike that the art of Islam is devoid of any ﬁgurative representation. Although not permitted in the Mosque, this exhibition shows how figurative representation is present in Islamic culture through its different media across centuries. The exhibit shows that this form of art is shaped by Islamic cultural beliefs.
Dr. Al Khemir strongly believes that art is a medium for bringing eastern and western cultures together. Dr. Al Khemir hopes, “that as visitors interact with the displays and discover different ways of seeing, they will leave with a new understanding of Islamic culture and that through experiencing the visual language of Islamic culture sight is transformed into insight.” Dr. Al Khemir has assembled over 250 works for the exhibition that would have been used and cherished in the homes of royalty as well as those created for modest levels of society. The gold and earthenware of ‘Islamic art’ are shaped by the vision of Islamic culture, bringing many cultures together. The journey of the exhibition is along the path of unity that keeps diversity.
This is the story of art created in the societies fostered by Islam, a journey through Islamic culture from the 7th century onward. The exhibition makes a point of touching on the present day and includes works by contemporary artists. The exhibition uniquely draws from collections across the United States as well as many other countries such Kuwait, Great Britain, France, Denmark, Morocco, and Italy. It features over 250 objects, from 40 lenders, from nine countries in Europe and the Middle East. For some of the works of art this will be the first time they are featured in the United States. Among the noteworthy pieces are masterworks from the al-Sabah Collection at Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyya in Kuwait, unique manuscripts from the Royal Library in Morocco and works from collections across the United States. These collections come from the Doris Duke Collection, the Seattle Art Museum, the Saint Louis Art Museum, the Met, the Sackler Museum and various other private collections from around the world. The exhibition is supported by grants from The Institute of Museum and Library Services, The National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities as well as a number of private donors.
Al Khemir is working with the entire BYU museum staff to put together the exhibition for the museum’s main galleries. With these displays in an interactive educational pavilion visitors of all ages will be able to explore further and understand the differences between Islamic and Western art. “We feel privileged to be the sponsoring institution of Beauty and Belief,” said Stephen Jones, Dean of the College of Fine Arts & Communications. “We are excited for thousands of visitors to see this ﬁne exhibit and strengthen and enhance their experience of Islamic art and culture.”
After its time at BYU, Beauty and Belief will travel throughout the United States. Directly after BYU the exhibition will be housed at the Indianapolis Museum of Art from November 2, 2012 – January 13, 2013.
Admission to the exhibition is free.
Media Contact/Utah: Yvette Arts (801) 422-5281
Media Contact/New York: Mary Frances Duffy (917) 854-6580
About the Project Director
Dr. Sabiha Al Khemir was born in Tunisia, was educated in Tunis and London. She lives in New York. She is a writer, artist, and expert in Islamic art whose work is concerned with cultural bridging and cultural dialogue. Dr. Al Khemir serves as the Project Director.
She was the Founding Director of the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar. Dr. Al Khemir and her most recent historical novel, The Blue Manuscript, were featured at the 2009 National Book Festival, Washington, D.C. Written in English and already translated into ﬁve languages, it is a tour de force that traces the search for the fabled manuscript of the title by an international team on an archaeological dig in Egypt. Dr. Al Khemir also writes in French and Arabic, and lectures internationally in all three languages.
She has produced documentaries broadcast on Channel 4, UK, and directed other exhibitions including From Cordoba to Samarkand, Louvre, 2006.
As a well-known artist her art has been featured internationally including in the United States. Her illustrative works include The Island of Animals and a number of book covers of well-known titles such as Respected Sir by the Nobel Prize winning author Naquib Mahfouz.
Known for her commitment to achieving understanding through the respect of cultures and appreciation of beauty, Dr. Al Khemir brings a unique vision to art in particular and humanity in general.
About the BYU Museum of Art
The Brigham Young University Museum of Art in Provo consistently ranks in the top 25 most attended art museums in North America, and is the most attended university art museum in North America. Its strong exhibition program and effective educational outreach draw over 300,000 visitors annually from the campus and surrounding communities. The museum has over 100,000 square feet and includes a state-of-the-art registration and storage facility. From the research and study of the artworks in the permanent collection, to the teaching and learning that occurs in classrooms and galleries, the museum plays an important role in the academic pursuits of many students at BYU.