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The Art of Islam


More than 120 of the finest examples of Islamic arts, ranging from jewel encrusted objects, rare ceramics, finely detailed miniatures and illustrated written texts, have been selected for the internationally touring exhibition The Art of Islam - Islamic Art and Patronage: Treasures from Kuwait. This exhibition will be on view at the Art Gallery of New South Wales from 30 November until 27 January 2003.

The works in the exhibition are from the al-Sabah Collection, which is housed at the Kuwait National Museum. This collection has been formed by principal members of the Kuwait Royal Family, Sheik Nasir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah and his wife Sheikha Hassah Sabah al-Salem al-Sabah. Begun in 1975, the collection is regarded as one of the most important in the world, containing as it does a comprehensive collection of rare and significant Islamic art objects.

This Royal collection was placed in the care of the Kuwait National Museum in 1983. During the Gulf War in 1990 the Museum buildings were ransacked and destroyed, but most of the pieces had been taken before the destruction and therefore saved. Since then the al-Sabah Collection has mostly either been in storage or touring the world.

�The worlds of Islam reach from the Iberian peninsula to the islands of Indonesia. The arts of Islam reflect the cultural and artistic opportunities of such a breadth of place and history in works as varied as exquisite calligraphies, Indian and Persian miniatures, ceramics, metalwork and of course the hallmark carpets. The arts of Islam are not well known in Australia and this most welcome and timely exhibition will aesthetically entrance and profoundly inform,� said Edmund Capon, Director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Created between the 8th and 18th centuries, these Islamic arts reflect the wide range produced in countries stretching from Spain to India and throughout the Middle East. While Islam has a wide geographic spread, common themes and principles of design unite the art produced; and patterns from nature or geometry are found throughout the Islamic world.

Many of the pieces were made by unknown artists who worked for courts or wealthy individuals. Royal patronage was considered an obligation to provide for the community�s spiritual life as well as sponsoring non-religious culture. Royal families sponsored the construction of mosques and other religious buildings including their decoration by artists of the highest calibre. In the 21st century, the Royal Family of Kuwait continues this tradition of patronage through supporting and sponsoring the Kuwait National Museum.

Special Event
Saturday 30 November at 10am
Sheika Hassah Sabah al-Salem al-Sabah will speak on the al-Sabah Collection
Domain Theatre, Art Gallery of New South Wales
Cost $30 includes exhibition viewing and morning tea
Bookings essential � 9225 1878

Concerts - Sounds of Islam
Saturdays 4, 11, 18 & 25 January, 2-3pm
Free with exhibition entry
Enjoy the subtle, haunting sounds of the ney (cane flute), traditionally played throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Performed by acclaimed multi-instrumentalist and composer,Kim Sanders.

Exhibition Talks
Tuesdays at 3pm Free with exhibition entry
3 December
Introduction to Islamic art � Craig Judd, art historian
10 December
Rugs and textile design � Ross Langlands, Director, Nomadic Rug Traders
7 January
Persian pots � Dot Kolentsis, ceramic artist
14 January
The jewels of Islam � Haema Sivanesan, Assistant Curator, Asian Art
21 January
Introduction to Islamic art � Craig Judd, art historian

On view:30 November 2002 to 27 January 2003
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery Road, The Domain,
Telephone:61 2 9225 1744 or 61 2 9225 1790 (recorded information) 1800 679 278 Nation-wide toll free
Hours:10am to 5pm 7 days a week
(closed Christmas Day and Easter Friday)
- Art After Hours -
open on Wednesdays until 9pm
from 8 January
Admission:$6 adults / $4 students/concessions/members
Media Information and Interviews:Jan Batten, Press Office
Telephone 61 2 9225 1791
or 0418 279 348
Images available on request

IMAGE CREDIT: Portrait of a Painter Illustration from an album, INDIA, first quarter 17th century. From the al-Sabah Collection, Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah, Kuwait National Museum