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  • "The Path of Princes: Masterpieces of the Aga Khan Museum Collection" exhibition in Lisbon.
Masterpieces of the Aga Khan Museum opens at the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon

13 March 2008, Lisbon, Portugal - “The Path of Princes: Masterpieces of the Aga Khan Museum Collection” exhibition at the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon was officially opened today by Emílio Rui Vilar, President of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and Prince Amyn Aga Khan, who was representing his brother, His Highness the Aga Khan. Portugal’s Minister of Culture, José António Pinto Ribeiro also attended the event. The exhibition comprises works of Islamic art, spanning over a thousand years of history, from the collection of the future Aga Khan Museum, due to open in 2011 in Toronto, Canada. 

Comprising works of art in stone, wood, ivory and glass, metalwork, ceramics, rare works on paper and parchment, the items in the collection create an overview of the artistic accomplishments of Muslim civilisations from the Iberian Peninsula to China and from the 8th to the 18th centuries. The collection contains some of the world’s most important masterpieces of Islamic art, including items from the collection of miniatures and manuscripts formed by the late Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan (uncle of His Highness the Aga Khan).

Speaking at the opening of the exhibition, Prince Amyn thanked the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum for their generosity in hosting the works of the Aga Khan Museum. “I hope this is the beginning of a long term collaboration between the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and the Gulbenkian Museum,” he said. “Exhibitions such as this one play an important role in promoting understanding, respect and appreciation for different cultures and traditions,” he said.

“Beyond the intrinsic value of this encounter between two significant art collections, the exhibition’s symbolic value is of added importance at the present time for the role that institutions like the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture may take in furthering the understanding of diversity, a condition conducive to the opening of dialogue between peoples and cultures,” said Emílio Rui Vilar, President of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

The exhibition is organised along two main themes: “The Word of God” and “The Power of the Sovereign”.  “The Word of God” presents Qur’ans from different periods of history, illustrating how the sacred text inspired works in both art and architecture. “The Power of the Sovereign” presents works of art from some of the major courts of Islamic history, ranging from precious gold and rock crystal objects produced for the Fatimids in the tenth and eleventh centuries to portraits of Ottoman Sultans and Qajar Shahs.  It includes objects that illustrate medieval and early modern Islamic court life, ranging from education to statesmanship, through a series of scientific texts, books of fables, miniaturist paintings and drawings, albums of calligraphy, pen cases, stringed instruments, wood panels, tile ceramics and metalwork.

The exhibition is held under the patronage of His Highness the Aga Khan, founder and Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN),  and His Excellency the President of the Republic of Portugal, Anibal Cavaco Silva. Previously exhibited in Parma, Italy, London, United Kingdom and in Paris, France, the Museum’s collections are expected to be on show in several other European cities prior to the opening of the museum in Toronto.

The Aga Khan intends the museum to be a centre of education and learning dedicated to the presentation of Muslim arts and culture in all their historic, cultural and geographical diversity. It is one of three museum projects currently under development by the AKTC. The other two are the Museum of Historic Cairo,  in Egypt, and  the Indian Ocean Maritime Museum in Zanzibar.

The Museum of Historic Cairo is designed to give both Cairenes and foreigners insights into the cultural and architectural heritage of the Egyptian capital’s historic area.  The Museum will be complemented by exhibition spaces within the neighbouring 12th Century Ayyubid wall and within recently restored cultural buildings in the historic city, which visitors will be encouraged to discover as they leave the Museum.

The Indian Ocean Maritime Museum in Zanzibar is part of the Trust’s long-standing revitalisation work in Zanzibar’s Stone Town, which is a World Heritage Site.  The Museum is dedicated to illustrating the exchange of goods, ideas and myths that took place between the diverse coastal civilisations of the Indian Ocean.

The museums are part of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture’s wide range of activities aimed at the preservation and promotion of the material and spiritual heritage of Muslim societies. As the cultural agency of the Aga Khan Development Network, AKTC leverages cultural heritage as a means of supporting and catalysing development.

For more information, please contact:

Sam Pickens
Aga Khan Development Network
P.O. Box 2049
1211 Geneva 2
Tel: (+41 22) 909 7200
Fax: (+41 22) 909 7291

Elisabete Caramelo
Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian
Avenida de Berna, 45A
1067-001 Lisboa
T +351 21 782 3000
F +351 21 782 3021


His Highness the Aga Khan is the 49th hereditary Imam (spiritual leader) of the Ismaili Muslims and a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).  A Harvard graduate in Islamic history, the Aga Khan succeeded his grandfather as Imam of the Ismailis in 1957.  He is the founder and chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network.

The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) is a group of private, non-denominational development agencies working to empower communities and individuals to improve living conditions and opportunities, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, Central and South Asia, and the Middle East. The Network’s nine development agencies focus on social, cultural and economic development for all citizens, regardless of gender, origin or religion. The AKDN’s underlying ethic is compassion for the vulnerable in society. Its annual budget for philanthropic activity is in excess of US$ 350 million.

The Path of Princes
Masterpieces of the Aga Khan Museum Collection
March 14 – July 6, 2008
Tuesday to Sunday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Closed Mondays and holidays: Easter Sunday and First of May.

Admission: € 4 (includes museum)

M A Y   C O N F E R E N C E S
Five lectures on Islamic art and culture
(5, 7, 12, 19 and 26 – 6.30 p.m.)  and a programme on the Aga Khan Award for Architecture (8, from 2.00 to 7.00 p.m.)

Full programme to be announced.  

G U I D E D   V I S I T S
After March 27, 2008
Thursdays – 3 p.m.
Sunday, April 20, 2008 – 11 a.m.
With booking at visiting time, except on holidays
(Minimum 5 people, maximum 15 people)

For groups by previous booking:
Tel.: 21 782 34 55/6
Fax.: 21 782 3032

Guided visits are free