Major Islamic art exhibit opens at Brigham Young University's Museum of Art
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Major Islamic art exhibit opens at Brigham Young University's Museum of Art
An 11th century cast bronze griffin on display at "Beauty and Belief." Photo: Mark Philbrick.

PROVO, UT.- The largest traveling survey exhibition of Islamic art ever assembled in the United States opened this week at Brigham Young University's Museum of Art.

The BYU MOA is the premiere venue for “Beauty and Belief: Crossing Bridges with the Arts of Islamic Culture”. Under the direction of Dr. Sabiha Al Khemir, the exhibition features more than 250 objects from 10 countries, 42 lending institutions and 10 private collections.

“It is our hope that these works of art and the meaning and spirit they convey will enable our students, the Utah Mormon and Muslim communities and people all across the nation to develop a greater understanding and shared sense of purpose and affinity one with another,” said Dr. Stephen Jones, dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communications.

As part of the exhibition, visitors will explore both masterpieces and modest works dating from the 7th century to the present. Displays in an interactive educational pavilion will help visitors of all ages understand the differences between Islamic and Western art.

“The exhibition will show the connection between the work of the artist and the act of devotion,” Al Khemir said. “I hope as visitors interact with the displays and discover new ways of seeing, they will leave with a new understanding of the Islamic culture.”

Awarded the largest single grant for an exhibition by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and with additional funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts and private foundations and donors, the exhibition has moved through four years of extensive planning.

“Many of the lenders asked me early on, ‘Why Utah? Why BYU? There is no Islamic art in Utah.’ I said, ‘Well, precisely. We need to take Islamic art to Utah,’” Al Khemir said. “And why BYU? Well, here’s a community—a religious community—who sincerely embraced the project, who was willing to cross bridges.”

The largest lender is the Dar al-Athar-al-Islamiyyah (DAI) museum in Kuwait. Other lenders include the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the British Museum and the National Library of Morocco.

The show will travel to three other museums across the United States including the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Newark Museum and Portland Art Museum.

“Beauty and Belief will communicate a message of spirituality and cultural understanding to audiences in four time zones across the United States,” said Mark Magleby, Director of the Museum of Art. “It is the most ambitious exhibition ever executed by the MOA, a project that has required worldwide collaboration. The art objects and Dr. Sabiha Al Khemir’s insights are awe-inspiring, and we are anxious for the BYU and Utah communities—as well as our national and international friends—to experience the exhibition.”

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