“One of the most remarkable aspects of Islamic art and culture is, it intersects with other nationalities and ethnicities, languages and artistic traditions in exciting ways,” says director of the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM), Dr Alan Chong.
Vases of the 19th century, from China, inscribed with Arabic verses.
A walk through the exhibition, Treasures of the Aga Khan Museum, presented by the ACM, quickly reveals the truth behind his statement. Featuring stunning exhibits of Islamic art and architecture, the pieces are richly diverse, with origins from Iran, India, Turkey, Syria, Spain and Egypt.
Marking the end of a seven-year long tour around the world, the artifacts are in Singapore for a final stopover till 28th October 2012, before they are returned to the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, set to open late next year.
A model of the Aga Khan Museum, in Toronto, set to open late 2013.
Chief curator of the Asian Civilisations Museum, Dr Pedro Carvalho and designer Henry Yeo, carefully thought out the best possible way to display each piece in its intrinsic form through elaborate designs.
“We rediscover our pieces in different ways of being shown, of being presented. The way they’ve used graphic material is absolutely fantastic and the best knowledge you can do to a good idea is to copy it and that’s what we’re going to do in Toronto,” reveals Luis Montreal, General Manager of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.
The symbiosis of the various design elements created by them and the works of art of the Aga Khan Museum, some over 1000 years old, are indeed near perfect, as agreed by Montreal.
A large brown canopy greets you upon entering the museum, a design creatively conceptualised by the duo to simulate the Islamic traditions of using canopies in the Middle Eastern regions.
Inside the museum, artifacts emanating rich diversity, await visitors. From beautiful water-coloured manuscripts to majestic silk and wool carpets, the vernacular artistry displayed through the pieces are a sheer testament to the cultural depth of the religion.
“Architecture is still today used as a way to show the importance of a culture and (its) strengths, financial aspect of a country and that was done thousands and hundreds of years ago in the Islamic world and is still being done today,” explains Dr Carvalho.
An Islamic art exhibit inscribed with Qu’ranic verses, featuring intrinsic and detailed carvings
Intricately designed, even coloured tiles are inscribed with Qur’anic verses and adorn buildings providing a subtle aesthetic appeal to them. The architecture is also a mini history lesson by itself. The 15th century Egyptian marble mosaic arches featuring symmetric patterns of hexagons and stars, are made of marble to provide a cool surface for the otherwise hot climate of Egypt.
While you’re reeling in awe at the amazing architecture at the Aga Khan Museum, don’t forget to snap a few photographs for keepsakes, as Luis Montreal reminds us that the artifacts are but only temporary guests in Singapore.
“This is the end of the journey. The pieces go back home. The museum staff in Toronto will be very happy to get them back and take care of them. I think some of the objects might be very tired from this long journey of many thousand miles and might need medical attention,” Montreal says in jest.
By Sujah Abhilash
Treasures of the Aga Khan Museum: Architecture in Islamic Arts
Exhibition Dates: Now on till 28 October 2012
Venue: Special Exhibition Gallery, Asian Civilisations Museum