Islamic Indian Deccan art at The Met, NYC

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SHAFAQNA - A new exhibition Sultans of Deccan India, 1500–1700: Opulence and Fantasy, which opened April 20 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, brings together some 200 of the finest works from major international, private, and royal collections.

The New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art  Islamic galleries that opened 15 new galleries – following eight years of renovation after reopening in 2011 – have brought audiences into a different world of lavish carpets, ceramics and miniature paintings.

NPR reports that the opening of galleries around the world has been a whirlwind with just this year in the United States, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Baltimore’s Walters Art Museum and the Dallas Museum of Art each has an exhibition dedicated to the genre.

The formal, art history discipline of “Islamic art” originated in 20th-century Western museums but seems to stop short at the 20th the century. It began as an offshoot of antiquities departments as curators began to notice the aesthetic links between medieval Islamic courts that streteched from Spain to India.

The MET’s first Islamic galleries were called “Islamic Art” and opened in 1975.  At the 2011 reopening they were named “New Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and Later South Asia.” Curator Sheila Canby says, “What we want to reflect in the title over the door is kind of what we cover and what we don’t cover, because of course there’s a huge population of Muslims in places like Indonesia, but we don’t have the art of Indonesia in these galleries.”

This summer, Haidar curated a critically acclaimed exhibition about the Muslim kingdoms of India’s Deccan plateau. It included bejeweled decorative objects, massive diamonds and miniature paintings filled with details that required magnifying glasses. Like the museum’s permanent Islamic collection, the emphasis was on showcasing the global trade links that created this world. Gallery labels underscored influences from China, Africa and Europe.

For Munir Jiwa however, a professor of Islamic studies at Graduate Theological Union says that depsite his love for visiting the MET, it is a contradiction for him compared to what he experiences on a daily basis. “My daily work reminds me of … just how difficult it is to relate or translate that very beautiful aesthetic experience that one finds in a place like the Met to the realities on the ground and the very difficult and challenging present,” Jiwa says.

“Most contemporary artists are very brave people,” she says, “because they actually are willing to take on these issues and not let their expression be suppressed. … And if their voices were to be extinguished — the voice of the writer, the voice of the artist, the voice of the poet, and then the evidence of history — that would be a truly terrible, dark world that would descend upon all of us.”

 

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