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  • In the presence of His Highness the Aga Khan, Minister Dato Seri Utama Dr Rais Yatim cuts the ribbon to officially open the Aga Khan Museum exhibition at the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia.
    AKDN / Gerald Friedli
Aga Khan Museum collection on display in Southeast Asia for the first time

Kuala Lumpur, 31 March 2012 -- An exhibition of artefacts from the Aga Khan Museum collection opened in Kuala Lumpur today at the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, marking the first time the collection is being shown in Southeast Asia.

The exhibition, entitled "Treasures of the Aga Khan Museum: Architecture in Islamic Arts", was inaugurated yesterday by Malaysia’s Culture Minister Dato Seri Utama Dr Rais Yatim and His Highness the Aga Khan, spiritual leader of the Shia Ismaili Muslims and founder and Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network. 

Speaking at the opening ceremony, the Aga Khan praised the Museum’s efforts to counter misperceptions about the Islamic world. “It is our responsibility ... to think and correct the messages which are being sent around the world about our history and about our culture,” he said.

Since 2007, selected items from the Aga Khan Museum collection have been exhibited at museums and galleries in Spain, Portugal, France, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Germany and Russia, attracting more than 900,000 visitors.

Malaysia’s Culture Minister, Dato Seri Utama Dr Rais Yatim, said the exhibition’s architectural theme was particularly important. “The exhibition takes us back in time to the heights of the Islamic civilisation, and presents us with depictions of architecture and their representations,” he said.

The Aga Khan also stressed the vital importance of reviving and preserving the Muslim world’s rich and diverse but often neglected architectural heritage. “Our schools of architecture had no architects training in Islamic architecture. Our historic buildings were not being maintained. Historic cities were allowed to disappear, out of ignorance, or lack of interest,” he said. He recalled more than three decades of efforts to restore Islam’s historic sites and create a wealth of knowledge and expertise about Muslim architecture.

He noted that AKDN's contributions to this revival included the establishment of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture 35 years ago, the endowment of the Aga Khan Program in Islamic Architecture at Harvard and MIT as well as the launch of the Historic Cities Programme of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.

The Aga Khan also noted that these efforts were now bearing fruit. “We see more and more museums coming up in the Islamic world, illustrating the diversity, the history, the great traditions of our world. And we are re-entering the knowledge of global humanities from which we have been absent for too long,” he said.

The Treasures of the Aga Khan Museum exhibition features 100 selected masterpieces, including miniatures and oil on canvas paintings depicting magnificent structures; decorative media, such as tiles and woodwork, which formed the visual ambience of the interior of architectural units; as well as objects of art that were constructed for use within these edifices.

Treasures of the Aga Khan Museum will be on display at the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia until 29 June 2012 following which it will travel to Singapore before eventually being permanently exhibited at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, Canada which is expected to open next year.

For more information on the exhibition please see  and  

Press contact:

Sam Pickens
Aga Khan Development Network 
1-3 avenue de la Paix
1202 Geneva


His Highness the Aga Khan is the spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslims and founder and Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). In the context of his hereditary responsibilities, His Highness the Aga Khan has been deeply engaged with the development of Asia and Africa for more than 50 years.

Today, the AKDN works in over 30 countries to improve living conditions and opportunities, and to help relieve society of the burdens of ignorance, disease, and deprivation. AKDN agencies are non-denominational and conduct programs without regard to the faith, origin or gender of beneficiaries. They work to improve the welfare and prospects of people in the developing world, particularly in Asia and Africa. Some programmes, such as specific research, education and cultural programmes, span both the developed and developing worlds.