A rare occasion for the Art Lover to discover the magnificent books and art objects of Islamic art from some of the greatest Islamic art collections in the world: The British Library, London; Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Berlin Museum für Islamische Kunst; The David Collection of Copenhagen; The Keir Collection from London; Victoria and Albert Museum of London; Musée des Arts décoratifs, Paris; The British Museum, London; Collection Frits Lugt from Institut Néerlandais of Paris; India Office Library, London; and the Louvre Museum, Paris. From 27th April to 23rd July, 2001"L'Etrange et le Merveilleux en terres d'Islam" in the Hall Napoléon of the Louvre Museum.
The Cosmoplitan Art Lover
I have the impression that we are witnessing today in Europe a profound change of mentality, the leading edge of which is international art. The present-day international art lover who jets around the planet in search of his roots does so in much more of a humble, respectful way than the fortunate few who could afford to be cosmopolitan art lovers even thirty years ago.
Although some news reporters still blow out of proportion xenephobic incidents in the world, the tangible proof of this 'rapprochement' is that instead of being conditioned by condescending words such as 'integration', 'assimilation' of 'foreigners', 'aliens', 'immigrants', 'strangers' (all of which are terms that are still accepted and repeated all over the media), you see more and more people in the Western world who have made a small-but-important step for mankind in taking an interest in the knowledge of other civilizations and this in far greater numbers than their elders. As with the handfull of experts before them, these art and culture lovers are fascinated, respectful, appreciative and inexorably attracted to other cultures than their own, and are ready to bear a long trip and the initial shock of cultural differences to really learn more about their neighbors.
A proof of this is two current exhibitions that have no doubt taken enormous time and energy to organize, bringing to the millions of cosmopolitan art lovers incredible treasures and testimonials of some of the greatest civilizations in the world: the "Fabulous and Marvellous in the Land of Islam" at Paris' Louvre museum, and the "Masterpieces of the Tehran Museum" in Rome's Palazzo Brancaccio.
The exhibition in Rome, previously in Berlin, covers the period from prehistory until the Islamic era (from over 7000 BC to 1000 AD), with 178 objects from various parts of Iran, including Persepolis.
The wonderful exhibition at the Louvre starts where the Rome exhibition concludes. Entitled " the Fabulous and Marvellous in the Land of Islam" it is in fact a testimonial of the tacit interest, admiration and curiosity that the Western world has always felt for Middle-Eastern culture. Much more profane than religious, it is an illustration of how the fine arts flourished in Iran, India, Syria, the rest of the Middle East, and China during the years that followed the acceptance of the Islamic faith. As the painting and sculpting of nature was forbidden in the Koran for fear of back-sliding towards idolatry (just as with the 2nd commandment in the Old Testament), a means to get around this interdiction (again like illuminated Western manuscripts) was found with the illustration and the illumination of important books. This became the major art form that was even encouraged and widely practiced.
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