Unique Exhibition on the Use of Light in Islamic Art Premiers in Spain

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A private museum in southern Spain is giving the world premier an international exhibition of rare Islamic art and scientific objects that highlight the use of light in decoration and research in the Muslim world. 

The exhibition, "Nur: Light in art and science in the Islamic world," is sponsored by the energy company Abengoa and has gathered 150 pieces from collections such those of the Bodleian Library at Oxford University and private collectors from around the world. 

Curated by Sabiha Al Khemir, a Tunisian writer and expert in Islamic art, the exhibition opened Saturday at the Focus- Abengoa Foundation's gallery in Seville. 

A global leader in developing renewable energies, the Spanish company Abengoa has applied innovative technology solutions for sustainability in the energy and environment sectors since 1941. The Focus-Abengoa Foundation was established in 1982 in Seville, Spain, by Abengoa with a mission to promote culture. 

After its premier in Seville, the exhibition travels next year to the Dallas Museum of Art in Texas, where it will be open to the public from March 30 to June 29. 

Deriving its title from the Arabic word for light in both the physical and metaphysical sense, Nur is organized thematically into two major sections: 

[1] Showcasing innovations in artistic technique that enhance the effect of light. 

[2] Focusing on scientific fields which are related to light or contributed to enlightenment.

Unique Exhibition on the Use of Light in Islamic Art Premiers in Spain 

Encompassing works dating from the 9th through to the early 20th century, and originating from a wide geographical area, from Spain to Central Asia, the exhibition includes manuscripts illuminated with gold and color pigments, ceramics painted with luster, inlay metalwork decorated in silver and gold, and objects made from precious and semi-precious stones. Scientific objects featured in the exhibition include equatorial sundials, astrolabes, and anatomical instruments, all of which are examples of the Islamic world’s influence on the Renaissance and scientific thought. 

In addition to showcasing the use of light in Islamic art and science, Nur demonstrates how Spain has bridged the Islamic world and Europe, serving as an entry point for Islamic discoveries in fields such as medicine, geometry, and astronomy, as well as specific inventions such as the luster technique. 

“For centuries, Spain has served as a bridge between Islamic and Western civilizations. The Focus-Abengoa Foundation’s organization of this traveling exhibition continues this tradition by allowing visitors to Seville and Dallas to discover new themes and see works from throughout the Islamic world, some of which have never been exhibited before,” said Dr. Sabiha Al Khemir. 

“The eleven centuries and fourteen countries represented in Nur demonstrate not only the tradition of skill and craftsmanship across the Islamic world, but also the sheer beauty that Islamic culture has produced and Islamic civilization’s contribution to humanity’s pool of knowledge. The exhibition therefore provides a unique opportunity to encounter Islamic culture in its artistic and scientific manifestations, inviting reflection on the subject within the framework of light”, concludes the exhibition’s scientific director and curator. 

The exhibition begins with a selection of objects that visually express the idea of light in their design, including a bowl from late 13th century Iran and a ceremonial shield from 17th century India or Persia, both of which feature suns at their centers emanating stylized rays of light. 

It also explores the idea of light as a shared metaphor, with pieces representing Muslim, Christian, and Jewish cultures. Screens throughout the exhibition present the rich details of the objects on view, highlighting the visual language and vocabulary of Islamic art and its multi-layered nature, with ornate flourishes and calligraphic writing. The screens also bring to the fore the synthesis of the exhibition’s themes, adding to the didactic dimension. 

The exhibition includes artworks and scientific objects from institutional and private collections, including a significant number of objects from Spanish collections that will travel to the United States for the first time for the Dallas Museum of Art’s presentation of Nur. 

Exhibition highlights include:

* A series of 11th century crystal chess pieces from Ourense’s cathedral museum, Spain, which have never before left the cathedral;
* 19th century anatomical illustrations from Iran, which have never before been exhibited to the public;
* Pieces from the 13th century renowned Jazira, Mosul, and Khorasan schools of metalwork, inlaid with gold and silver;
* Four pages, displayed together for the first time, from the “Blue Koran” of 9th-10th century Tunisia, the only existing Koran manuscript on blue parchment;
* A 19th century work on paper, two meters long, from Iran, representing the twelve signs of the Zodiac, which has never before been exhibited;
* The oldest surviving illustrated manuscript written in Arabic on any subject, a manuscript on paper of Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi’s “Treatise on the Fixed Stars,” dating from 1009-1010;
* A ceramic bowl from 9th century Iraq created using luster technique that produces a glowing metallic sheen on its surface design of a stylized bird;
* A 10th century architectural elements from Madina al-Zahra, the palace city near Cordoba.


Sources: 

"Exhibition of rare Islamic scientific and art objects opens in Spain" The Province November 6, 2013 

"The Focus-Abengoa Foundation opens the exhibition “Nur: Light in Art and Science from the Islamic World” at the Hospital de los Venerables in Seville, Spain" Abengoa October 24, 2013.

Unique Exhibition on the Use of Light in Islamic Art Premiers in Spain


Source: en.islamtoday.net (Nov. 6, 2013)