Footage of the New Galleries for Islamic Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, with commentary by curators Sheila Canby and Navina Haidar.

Produced by the Digital Media Department

Director: Christopher Noey

Camera: Wayne De La Roche, Jessica Glass, Sam Henriques

Editor: Jessica Glass

Lighting Design: Ned Hallick

Sound: Jessica Glass

Dolly Grip: Kelly Richardson

Production Assistants: Corinne Colgan, Sarah Cowan, Kate Farrell, Robin Schwalb

the Department of Islamic art has about 12,000 objects in its collection and we are showing about 1200 of these in our new galleries for the art of the Arab lands Turkey Iran Central Asia and later South Asia there is a logic in the galleries we've organized them essentially chronologically but really regionally because there is a great deal to be said about what is specific to the different regions the first most exciting thing is to see the objects back on view because we have great faith in our collection and no matter what you do how you arrange it what you want to say about it the objects speak for themselves as a curator one of the most exciting things you can ever do is plant permanent galleries because you get to work with the entirety of the collection you get to rethink basic concepts and ideas and basic notions about the collection and a chance to interpret it for a very wide audience for a very long time so it's a huge responsibility as well as a huge challenge our installation now the fact that we reinstall these galleries in this particular way that we have the floor plan that we have that we have the arrangement that we have really stresses two things one is diversity the other is interconnections what we hope the visitor will take away from this experience of visiting 19,000 square feet of space divided into 15 galleries by region is that the Islamic world is incredibly diverse and it's not one world but many and it's not another one but ours because it's connected to the rest of the world all through history in different ways at different times and this installation will be stressing those two points the vistas from one room to another have been thought out so carefully that one can see an object and then in the next room and realize that actually there is a relationship between these things that's a kind of thing I hope our visitors will see and we'll make them curious and make them want to kind of go a little deeper into the subject the Mets collection of Islamic art is hands down the most important collection of its kind in both North and South America and it rivals the great encyclopedic collections in Europe the importance of this collection for the Metropolitan Museum is that we cover territory from Spain to Bangladesh we cover a time period from the seventh to the nineteenth century and we connect with three continents within the context of the Metropolitan Museum there are many lateral connections you can make with other collections in the museum through our collection as well it's very well positioned here to further the Mets encyclopedic mission and nature to represent works of art from every aspect of mankind's achievements the Moroccan Court which has been made by craftsmen from Fez is a great new innovation in these galleries and has been a terrific experience working with these artisans who are so gifted and who understand the vocabulary of their traditional building decoration so well so I think that will be a favorite for the public one of the things that we thought was especially valuable to show right now is that despite all the changes and all the developments of our modern age we still have something of the past with us and we found that particularly in the case of the Moroccan crafts tradition because of the government of Morocco and the people of Morocco had preserved their own crafts we were able to actually get a group of craftsmen over here from Fez and create an exquisite of the space that represents the living traditions of the Islamic world today reviving in some sense styles and techniques that go back to the 15th century there are just so many wonderful things big and small that people will discover for themselves as they go through the galleries we have a new expanded space and a more circular space than we did in the past and that's encouraged us to think in a more circular way and to think in terms of interconnections and in terms of different points of view and in terms of different sorts of relationships that wall so porous that influences pervaded and moved from one direction to the other you'll see through the floorplan and the visitor moving through the space will be able to understand some of these meaningful connections because of the floorplan itself we have 500 carpets this is one of the greatest carpet collections in the world we have a massive textile collection and of course paintings ceramics metalwork glass the whole array of types of objects that one would expect to find in an encyclopedic collection of Islamic art what I hope is that regardless of what's going on in the world that people will understand how many good things have been produced in these places over the centuries and really how deep the culture is and what I want people to see is that not just kings and queens and important and wealthy people but actually people with many levels of society surrounded themselves with very beautiful objects and they appreciated different types of objects and use them and that this helps us understand and humanizes these cultures in a way that I think is beneficial for everyone one way for people to understand how people lived is to actually look at a room where they did live this would have been a reception room in a wealthy house in Damascus probably used in the winter because of its orientation and it combines painted and gesso wood with a fountain that's probably earlier a stone fountain and then has different types of objects like the ones that would have been displayed on the shelves in the room the poetry praises the Prophet Muhammad in the house and the owner of the house this room from Damascus an early 18th century room was completely renovated by our conservators it's a very elegant space and so this does give an idea of how people lived I hope that this installation will help create a sense of embrace of the Islamic world which will to some extent make the viewer feel comfortable in some aspect of this huge diverse culture that we are showing because it's not necessarily another culture the Islamic world has been part and parcel of world development world history world art from it's very inception and being able to provide insights through this installation I hope will encourage people to feel this is part of our world heritage and a very very important and rich but exciting part and especially meaningful today in our new galleries we recognize not only a diversity of place but also a diversity of language and essentially of ethnicity and these things are expressed under the mantle of the Islamic faith but we want to show people that if you go to Istanbul you're likely to see something that's quite different than if you go to Isfahan or Delhi or Rabat what we are trying to say in our new galleries is that the world was much more complex than black and white Muslim and Hindu there's always this interaction of people of artists of styles of the visual world we have a greater interest in the context in which art was produced and not simply the chronology and not simply that Islam was a unifying factor we feel that it's more balanced to take the regions to look at both what unifies them through Islam and then also what differentiates them through their own local vernacular essentially there is something to be said for Shia glamour there is something to be said for you know seducing an audience because this world has been alienated in some sense because of modern politics because of the collections not having being on view for 10 years almost and the fact that we can open with new objects and new objects of such power and such beauty and such interest I think take us a long way with reintroducing ourselves to audiences making people get excited about what they're seeing and just people coming up to them and saying what is that that's incredible we have a great collection that reflects the tastes and the patronage of the ruling nobility of India from the Mogul age as well as the Deccan kingdoms the range of types of works of art that you'll see as a visitor in this space is so enormous that I think that everyone will find something there that appeals to them and gives a sense that this is a huge rich complex world with an enormous number of facets and artistically extremely expressive and exciting dynamic interesting and so I'm just as a curator excited to share all of this with a new generation of audiences you

22 thoughts on “Islamic Art Gallery Views with Commentary by Sheila Canby and Navina Haidar

  1. How quickly do you expect people to read?! Could you allow any/and all of the informational “writing” to remain just a few seconds longer on the screen, so that the audience could actually read what it says. Thank you.

  2. Stunning art of Islam is always a delight. Such a shame you didn't give the video the love it deserves and make it true HD (1080p minimum please)! So much of the detail of these works is lost to the YouTube fuzzies.

  3. What an idiotic comment made by Canby!! Irrespective of what is going on in the world? Islamic art is second to none and I think I would have been happier hearing Ms. Haidar throughout. Canby does a disservice to the beauty here.

  4. at 10:25 same the Karatchov large medallion carpet on the wall is typical of the works of art of textile art which has been produced by Armenian Villageous person in the 19th century.

    By the way is the title of these new galleries Islamic Art … well chosen ? several works of art as the Bidri or the following miniature from different religion than the Islamic one. I deeply respect Islam, but as weel I deeply respect, too, historical truth. What do you do with Zoroastrian works of Art ?

  5. at 1:20 The bas-relief is for sure either Armenian origin either from an Armenian model of bas relief (two fishes = christianity) + the 2 birds with human figures are exactly those which are communly figured on Armenian Gospels + the Grenade tree which used to be a symbol or symbolic motive of Armenian Royal or Prince families. The Grenade is even today one of the most familiar symbols of Armenia.

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