British Museum announces new Islamic art gallery - Museums Association

British Museum announces new Islamic art gallery

Many objects to go on display for the first time
The lead curator responsible for a major new Islamic art gallery at the British Museum in London has said that the new space will allow the "full range of the collections to be deployed”, with many objects going 0n show for the first time.

Venetia Porter, the curator of the Islamic collections at the museum, said that glass, metalwork, ceramics, ethnography, miniature paintings, and other items dating from the beginning of Islam in the seventh century to today will go on display in the the Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic World, which is due to open in October 2018.

The new gallery will be housed in rooms 42 to 45 on the first floor of the museum, replacing the current gallery of the Islamic world on the north side of the building.

The Malaysia-based Albukhary Foundation is the principal sponsor. Its financial contribution is undisclosed, but Porter said that "it is substantial and will cover the work needed to rebuild and refurbish these galleries".

The new gallery will be chronological, with early collections displayed within their late antique context, and will explore the “Islamic world”, from Spain and North Africa to Muslim South-East Asia.

Visitors will be able see how Islamic art developed from the mid-19th century.

"We want to explore how our collections represent what happened after that, the collapse of the Ottoman empire, colonialism and the formation of the new nation states taking us right up to the present day," Porter said.

Contemporary works by artists such as the Iraqi-American Michael Rakowitz will also go on display.

Asked whether the gallery content will reflect the activities of the Islamic State militant group, which has reportedly destroyed ancient heritage sites in Iraq such as Hatra, Porter said: “The activities of Islamic State are utterly deplorable but cannot be attributed in a generalised way to people of Muslim faith. We hope that this gallery, placed right at the heart of the museum, will demonstrate how all our cultures interconnect.”

The relations between European and Islamic culture, the place and role of non- Muslim communities, including Jewish and Christian groups, and the role of trade and patronage will also be examined.

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