Art in Arab Lands: Middle East & Far East Meet on the Upper East Side

December 01, 2011 at 4:19 pm

Where: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Opening: Nov. 1, 2011
Closing: Nov. 4, 2051
Donations of $25 for adults, $17 for seniors and $12 for students. 

With more than one thousand pieces from one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of Muslim works, the Metropolitan Museum’s renovated Art in Arab Lands galleries have earned the right to welcome visitors for the next several decades (the exhibition will be open until 2051, according to the museum’s website).

Beyond the delicate ceramics, 350-year-old Persian carpets, restored medieval Qurans and miniatures from the royal courts of the Arab World, the renovated space is a work of art in its own right. Moroccan artisans hand-sculpted a Maghrebi-Andalusi style court to complement four medieval Spanish columns that frame the suite.

Moroccan artisans hand-sculpted a Maghrebi-Andalusi style court to complement four medieval Spanish columns. Photo courtesy of SundayArts.

The original galleries shut their doors in 2003, when the Met Museum closed them for renovations as part of a long-term plan to update the museum for the 21st century.

Former Met Museum director turned SundayArts host Philippe de Montebello recently spoke with curator Navina Haidar about the diverse Islamic art collection, which spans 9,000 miles and 13 centuries.

Such immense scope in time and space might have led to disunity in the collection, but as Haidar explained to SundayArts, “There are certain qualities that the art of all of these regions share…The most quintessential binding thread, artistically, is that of the caligraphic tradition, where the sacred verses of the Quran were transcribed and beautifully written out on objects and architecture and manuscripts.”

Below are five patterns from the collection that offer a sense of Arabic calligraphy in the Islamic art tradition:


An interview with curator Navina Haidar at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s New Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and Later South Asia. Video courtesy of SundayArts.