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The Treasures of the Aga Khan come to the Sabanci Museum in Istanbul

January 3, 2011

I had an earlier, somewhat foul-language, post about the “8,000 Years of History” exhibition at the inimitable Sabanci Museum. This exhibit is far better. I’ve written (and gabbed on and on) about my amazement at who the Aga Khan is and how he shows remarkable discretion in his role as leader of the Ismaili Muslim Community. Also, he donates his collection of Islamic art to do a worldwide tour before the Aga Khan Museum opens in Toronto (??) in 2013.

If you have any interest in Islam, in art, or how Islam has been represented throughout the years, this is really the exhibit for you. I can’t fully make you understand how important it is that you go there without resorting again to expletives (don’t worry, I won’t).

The “1001 Inventions” exhibit got panned by noted curmudgeon Edward Rothstein in the NYTimes, and I certainly understand his concern. For what it’s worth, Ms. Doffing gave her review of that exhibit here, and noted how Ben freakin’ Kinglsey runs the show. But seriously, why stretch Islamic heritage to Maimonedes when you have all the Aga Khan’s Islam in all of its glory?

This ‘Alem is much more of a triumph then Ben Kingsley with an accent.

The Sabanci is a well-curated, well-laid-out museum for sure. It’s a beautiful location in Emirgan, even in the noire winter that Istanbul is famous for. It’s nowhere near the coal, wood, and/or tire fires of Kasimpasa or Unkapani. The exhibit tells you what’s going on and why you should be in awe of it. They even go so far as to explain the different kinds of Arabic-derived script, which gave me and my Pakistani doppleganger a case of the over-excited giggles:

Shaky pic because I relied on my HUGE SMILE to provide the flash

And while the exhibit of course had most of its items from the traditional cradle of Ismaili Islam, Central and South Asia, there were plenty of works from as far west as Indonesia, in this stunning Koran:

…to this room installation from Morocco:

They also had things as old as doors from the 800’s to recent winners of the Jameel Prize, celebrating modern Art from an Islamic perspective.

As I said, I can’t emphasize how important this is to see if you consider yourself interested in Islam or interested in religious art or just interested in embracing the fact that Islam is so much more complicated and beautiful then the one-sided FEARGOD that it is often portrayed as.

More works can be seen from when the exhibit was in Germany in this slideshow. And although you will be able to get into the exhibit at Sabanci until the end of January, you will not be able to have the Murghi Kashmiri that my Pakistani doppleganger cooked up for us. Your loss.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Diana permalink
    January 7, 2011 1:44 pm

    Nice review Asher. Too late for me to go but next time

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