New Islamic art documentary bridges worlds

Daniel Tutt is the Outreach Director at Unity Productions Foundation, a nonprofit that focuses on creating peace through various media. UPF has produced several films on Islam, including Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet, Cities of Light: The Rise and Fall of Islamic Spain, and Prince among Slaves.

The mainstream portrayal of Islam does not usually deal with transcendent beauty, elegant ornamentation, or intricate calligraphy. But might art be one of the keys to healing some of the chasms and conflicts that have plagued Muslim-West relations over the last 10 years? The power of art to build bridges of understanding is becoming more recognized as a vital component to repairing the Muslim-West divide. The new exhibit on Islamic art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art has already attracted thousands, and leading contemporary Islamic artists in America were recently featured at the Andy Warhol Museum, as part of the Dislocating Culture exhibit.

The largest mud brick building in the world is the Great Mosque of Djenné in Mali

In an another effort to present the great masterpieces of Islamic art and architecture to an American audience, a new documentary film, Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World, is slated to air on PBS in 2012. The film will launch with a series of nationwide screenings starting today at the Kennedy Center with its world premiere. Exploring five themes that are central to Islamic art–the Word, Space, Ornament, Color and Water–, the film traces the arc of Islamic art as a universal human endeavor that frequently interacted with people of other faiths and cultures. Framing Islamic art as the result of a multicultural and adaptive set of artistic approaches and creations, the film highlights Muslim artists who developed new art forms through an integration of various cultural expressions. Continue reading

Islamic Galleries at The Met

The 18th Century Damascus Room Displayed at the Met's New Islamic Galleries

New Yorkers no longer have to travel to Linxia or Basra to catch a glimpse of Islamic artistic creativity. Last week, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (“The Met”) completed an eight-year renovation of their Islamic galleries, now housing over 1,200 works spanning more than 1,400 years. The Met even commissioned a Moroccan family with generations of artisan experience to coordinate and create a traditional Moroccan courtyard inside the museum itself.

Although most of the pieces have been in the permanent collection for years, the Met has taken some off of its dusty storage shelves and provided others with a more prominent display. Works now on display include a mihrab (prayer niche indicating the direction of Mecca) from Isfahan, an 18th-century Syrian reception room, and an Uzbek painting depicting the Prophet Muhammad’s Laylat al Miraj, or trip to heaven. Artists, historians, and many others have found a common appreciation for the stunning visuals offered to visitors, but I was also struck by the name given to the galleries.

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