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Exhibition from Aga Khan Museum Collection Inaugurated by King of Spain and Aga Khan in Madrid

Please also see:  Photographs, Opening Hours, Location and Related Events and Aga Khan Museum site

Joint Press Release

Madrid, 4 June 2009 – His Majesty the King, His Highness the Aga Khan, the Honorary President of "la Caixa" and First Vice-President of "la Caixa", Ricardo Fornesa, today inaugurated the exhibition "The Islamic Worlds in the Aga Khan Museum Collection" at CaixaForum Madrid. Jaime Lanaspa, Director of "la Caixa" Foundation and Luis Monreal, Director of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture also attended the opening ceremony.

The aim of the exhibition, organised by "la Caixa" Social and Cultural Outreach Projects and devoted to ancient cultures, is to show how people from different times and places have confronted major global concerns and also to widen our own world view. Outstanding among recent "la Caixa" events have been exhibitions of Indian figurative sculpture and Etruscan civilisation.

"The Worlds of Islam in the Aga Khan Museum Collection", organised by "la Caixa" Social and Cultural Outreach Projects in cooperation with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture – the cultural arm of the Aga Khan Development Network – presents a total of 190 artefacts representing fourteen centuries of history and extending from the Iberian Peninsula to the Far East.  After its first showing at CaixaForum Madrid, the exhibition will travel to Barcelona where it can be seen from October 2009 to January 2010.

The exhibition sets out to examine current issues surrounding the polarity between east and west and to explore aspects of Muslim culture, which is also an integral part of Spain’s historic heritage. Through works of art from different periods and different parts of the world, the exhibition reflects the splendour of Muslim culture in all its diversity, providing proof of the pluralism of Islam, in its ways of interpreting the Qur’anic faith as well as in the variety of styles, materials and techniques involved in the creation of these works.

The exhibits feature significant and valuable items from practically every dynasty in the history of the Muslim world. These provide an overview of the Islamic world’s finest artistic achievements in wood, stone, gold, bronze, ivory, ceramics and textiles, and on parchment and paper.

Currently, AKTC is in the process of building a museum in Toronto (Canada) to provide a permanent home for its collections. Meanwhile, the works are being shown in various cities around the world.

The exhibition presents the different Islamic dynasties, identifying the territories over which each dynasty ruled following the break-up of the Abbasid caliphate at the end of the ninth century. The Umayyads held sway over al-Andalus, the Fatimids and the Mamelukes reigned in Egypt, the Ottomans in Turkey, and the Safavids in Iran and the Mughals in India. The essential characteristics of Islamic courtly culture can be seen in generic portraits of respective sovereigns in profile. The works of art on display also emphasise the high cultural level of the Islamic courts responsible for spreading knowledge of Ancient Greece to the west via translations in Arabic.

Also reflected in the exhibition are the fundamental features of Islamic architecture, including a capital in the Roman tradition but with Islamic ornamental motifs, as well as beams and doors in carved wood. The most outstanding examples of painting are found in books illustrated with miniatures and portraits of kings and sultans.

The exhibits are divided into three large sections. The central section is devoted to The Qur’anic Faith while the other two guide viewers through various Islamic courts using as a metaphor a journey in two stages – From Cordoba to Damascus and From Baghdad to Delhi.

The Qur’anic Faith

The Qur’an was a source of inspiration for the many artists, artisans and architects who created sumptuous examples of the holy book with beautiful calligraphy, as well as works of refined sensibility designed to spread the teachings of the Qur’an across the Islamic world. Copying verses of the Qur’an was regarded as a form of religious devotion, hence their presence in a wide variety of settings. Throughout this section, visitors can admire distinctive and highly decorative styles of Arabic script.

From Cordoba to Damascus

Under the Umayyad caliphate, the Iberian Peninsula formed part of a vast transcontinental empire extending from Cordoba to Damascus which became the pinnacle of human civilisation. All new ideas came from the east, in the form of literary and scientific works from Antiquity, lost after the fall of the Roman Empire but preserved in Arabic translation. So, too, did the works of great Muslim humanists and scientists which laid the foundations for the development of astronomy, mathematics and natural history. The artistic styles of Byzantium and Ancient Persia also spread along the trade routes.

From Baghdad to Delhi

In the seventh-century Arabo-Muslim invaders seized all the territories belonging to their former rival, the Persian Empire, uniting the lands between the Rivers Tagus and Indus to create a single entity. Artistically, as a result of commercial and cultural contacts and the presence of Chinese artists, Far Eastern influences were added to the predominant Persian style.


Opening Hours, Location and Related Events:  

CaixaForum Madrid
Paseo del Prado, 36
28014 Madrid

Opening hours
Monday–Friday and Sunday, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Saturday, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.

"la Caixa" Social and Cultural Outreach Projects Information Department
Monday – Sunday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Tel.: 902 22 30 40

Entrance to the exhibition is free

Related Events

Prices: Per session: €2 (LKXA, Club Estrella, Carnet Joven and Carnet +25 cardholders: €1). Limited seating

Artistic Mornings: The Worlds of Islam 

Courses led by Islamologist Víctor PALLEJÀ of the University of Alicante

Friday 5 June, 11.30 a.m.

An approach to Islamic art: unity and multiplicity
To gain a better understanding of Islamic art it is important to appreciate how it maintains unity in a context that is very broad and also extremely complex. The usual, sometimes ill-defined, boundaries and concepts must be re-examined so as to achieve a global and intelligent vision of “the Worlds of Islam”.

Thursday 11 June, 11.30 a.m.

The fascination of the written word: epigraphy and the Qur’an
Islam’s sacred text, revealed to the Prophet Muhammad over a long period, occupies a central place in Qur’anic artistic sensibility. It is crucial to understand why calligraphy is the visual art par excellence and how it offers the reader a deeper comprehension of the language. A study of calligraphy reveals many of the deepest secrets of the calligrapher’s art.

Friday 19 June, 11:30 a.m.

Living in a cosmopolitan culture: architecture and movement
Islamic art and artists have lived in a civilisation that is simultaneously urban and itinerant. Palaces, gardens and houses have frequently provided shelter for people on the move. These twin aspects of artistic life in the Muslim world explain the development and large-scale dissemination of the unique aesthetic that distinguishes Islamic art. Its unique “architecture” goes hand-in-hand with a sophisticated way of life that endured for centuries and is still much admired today.

Friday, 26 June, 11.30 a.m.

Artistic experience and sensibility: pilgrimage and mysticism
The rich fund of allusions and ideas expressed in Islamic art stem from a vast store of traditions and teachings developed within Islam. Specifically, pilgrimage has created a way of life that has allowed art to flourish at every level of society. Among its many spiritual dimensions, the world of the Sufis provides an important inspiration for artistic expression, full of different meanings and communicating artists’ personal experiences.

Music on Film – A Series about the Music of Central Asia
During the Soviet era, the traditions of many Central Asian republics were diluted by the cultural and artistic uniformity imposed from Moscow. Most of the musical traditions of these cultures were lost or forced to undergo considerable modifications to comply with western models and tastes. However, with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 musicians from Central Asia began a journey back to their roots with the aim of recovering and preserving the treasures of their cultural heritage and making them known to a much wider public.

Co-produced by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and the Smithsonian Institute’s Centre for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, the series presents some of the finest exponents of the different musical traditions of Central Asia through the medium of high-quality documentary films. These focus on the lives, work and sources of inspiration of a generation of musicians whose talent and innovative ideas have revitalised this musical legacy. These intimate and moving portraits invite viewers to explore fascinating but still virtually unknown cultures.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009, 7.30 p.m.

Tengir-Too: Mountain Music from Kyrgyzstan. Smithsonian Folkways Recordings 2005, 24 min, ORIGINAL VERSION WITH SPANISH SUBTITLES

Invisible face of the Beloved: Classical Music of the Tajiks and Uzbeks. Smithsonian Folkways Recordings 2005, 24 min, ORIGINAL VERSION WITH SPANISH SUBTITLES

Wednesday, 17 June 2009, 7.30 p.m.

Homayun Sakhi: The Art of the Afghan Rubab. Smithsonian Folkways Recordings 2005, 24 min, ORIGINAL VERSION WITH SPANISH SUBTITLES

Bardic Divas: Women’s Voices in Central Asia. Smithsonian Folkways Recordings 2007, 24 min, ORIGINAL VERSION WITH SPANISH SUBTITLES

Wednesday 24 June 2009, 7.30 p.m.

Badakhshan Ensemble: Song and Dance from the Pamir Mountains. Smithsonian Folkways Recordings 2007, 24 min, ORIGINAL VERSION WITH SPANISH SUBTITLES

Alim and Fargana Qasimov: Spiritual Music of Azerbaijan. Smithsonian Folkways Recordings 2005, 24 min, ORIGINAL VERSION WITH SPANISH SUBTITLES


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