Saturday, September 27, 2014

Islamic Art Update: North America Now Has Some

Back in July, I made a note of my then-recent visit to the Milwaukee Art Museum, and more specifically, the overwhelming tendency towards American and Western European art, largely and sometimes completely to the exclusion of wide swaths of the rest of the planet. Oceania and the Middle East, at least the day I was there, were utterly absent any representation. I figure most category-unspecific art museums are similar: concentrate on domestic art and the 'classical' artists out of Europe, bonus points if it's someone people know, and kind of just... forget about the rest of the world. All the world creates art, but only certain parts of the world see their art fawned over in great numbers.

I bring this up because Toronto is doing something about that. The Aga Khan Museum opened on September 18, North America's first museum dedicated specifically to Islamic art. (I wouldn't click on the links in that Al Jazeera article. For some reason they made them all links usable only by employees of Al Jazeera.) There is, of course, an Islamic community in Toronto or else it wouldn't have been placed there, but there is, as you might expect, a large selection from the Arab world proper, and that is the focus. The collection shown on the official website displays works from Afghanistan, China, Egypt, Morocco, India, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Turkey, Spain, Syria and Yemen (none of them contemporary).

Seriously. There wasn't a single Islamic-specific art museum on the entire continent until now.

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