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  • One of the masterpieces of the Aga Khan Museum to be displayed in the exhibition : the Ottoman box made from ivory, gold, turquoise and rubies by Safavid Iranian craftsmen in Istanbul for Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.
Istanbul Opening for "Treasures of the Aga Khan Museum: Arts of the Book and Calligraphy"

Istanbul, Turkey, 5 November 2010 - Following seven different exhibitions in Europe that have attracted over half a million visitors, a new selection of masterpieces from the Aga Khan Museum will be on show at the Sakıp Sabancı Museum in Istanbul, from 5 November 2010 to 27 February 2011. The exhibition, which is sponsored by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), has been organised in close cooperation with the host museum.

The exhibition is the first created from the Aga Khan Museum collections to centre on the Arts of the Book and Calligraphy. It showcases important works on paper and parchment from all parts of the Muslim world, from Andalusia to China, including gold and turquoise illuminated manuscripts from the tenth through the nineteenth centuries. The manuscripts will be complemented by a wide range of rare objects in textile, stone, wood, ceramics and metalwork from the same period, many of them with calligraphic inscriptions or decoration reminiscent of illumination.

Speaking at the inauguration of the exhibition, Prince Amyn Aga Khan said, "Whether it occurs along the great trade routes, over land or over sea, or whether it occurs for reasons essentially geographic, this dialogue of cultures has nearly always resulted in an upsurge of creativity, in a continuing cultural renewal. In my view, this dialogue is more essential today than ever."

The Director of the Museum, Dr. Nazan Ölçer, remarked that “the collection of Aga Khan Museum, via the universal language of art, tries to eliminate the prejudices against Islam. In this exhibit, we aim to recreate a dialogue of mutual understanding and tolerance by showing the reflections of Islamic art all around the world.”

The exhibition features miniature paintings from the celebrated Shahnama of Shah Tamasp; the earliest known manuscript of Ibn Sina’s Canon of Medicine, which became the medical reference book in Europe for several centuries; and a manuscript of the 101 Nights, recently brought to light, which pre-dates all other known versions by 500 years. Rare pages and illuminated volumes of the Qur’an will be shown, including a page from the “Blue Qur’an”, which is celebrated for its gold text on aquamarine-dyed parchment.

The objects to be displayed will include an eleventh century silk robe with facing birds from Central Asia; a gold, turquoise and ivory box produced by Persian goldsmiths working for the Ottoman court at the beginning of the sixteenth century; a portrait of the poet Hatifi painted by Bizhad; and a portrait of the Ottoman Sultan Selim II attributed to Haidar Reis Nigari (1494–1572). The catalogue of the exhibition will feature original articles by leading art historians such as Oleg Grabar, Francis Richard and Michael Barry and will focus on the arts of the book and calligraphy.

The masterpieces in the exhibition are part of the collections of the Aga Khan Museum, which is currently under construction in Toronto, Canada. The Museum will open in 2013. As the first major educational and exhibition centre in North America dedicated to Muslim arts and culture, the Museum’s mission is to acquire, preserve and display artefacts -- from various periods and geographies -- relating to the intellectual, cultural, artistic and religious heritage of Islamic communities.

The Museum collection contains over one thousand artworks spanning over a millennium of history. The objects – in ceramic, metalwork, ivory, stone and wood, textile and carpet, glass and rock crystal, as well as manuscripts and miniature paintings on parchment and on paper – present an overview of the artistic accomplishments of Muslim civilisations from the Iberian Peninsula to China.

The Aga Khan Trust for Culture is the cultural agency of the Aga Khan Development Network. Through education and cultural initiatives in music and the arts, AKTC aims to highlight the contributions of the Muslim world to global cultural heritage. It also implements programmes aimed at the physical and social revitalisation of communities with the aim of improving the quality of life and, through its architectural programmes, promotes debate about contemporary design problems.

“Treasures of the Aga Khan Museum: Arts of the Book and Calligraphy” follows the Sakɪp Sabancɪ Museum’s exhibition on the history of Turkey’s largest city, “Legendary Istanbul: From Byzantium to Istanbul - 8000 Years of a Capital”, and is also organised as part of the activities celebrating Istanbul’s selection as the European Capital of Culture in 2010.

Located in Emirgan, in one of Istanbul's oldest settlements on the Bosphorus, the Sabancı University’s Sakıp Sabancı Museum features a rich permanent collection, temporary exhibitions, conservation units and model educational programs. It also hosts various concerts, conferences and seminars.

For more information, please see Aga Khan Museum site and the Sakip Sabanci Museum's website.

For press enquiries, please contact: 

A&B Communications – Ece Ozkan 
Valikonağı Caddesi 73/5-6 Nişantaşı 34371 İstanbul
T: (0212) 233 22 38 F: (0212) 248 44 36


Sam Pickens
Aga Khan Trust for Culture
1-3 avenue de la Paix
1202 Geneve
Tel. (+41 22) 909 7277