By Hermoine Macura-Noble
Special to The Times Kuwait
Art lovers will be glad to know that the iconic Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) in Qatar will reopen to the public on 5th October following an enhancement project and the reimagination and reinstallation of its permanent collection galleries. As the first world class Islamic art museum in the region, MIA will re-open in time for the influx of visitors to Doha for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, and provide a more accessible, engaging, and educational experience for guests from all backgrounds.
More than 1,000 objects, including several new collections, will be displayed in the museum’s permanent galleries for the first time, alongside the masterpieces for which the MIA has long been recognized. Shortly after its reopening, MIA will present the landmark temporary exhibition titled, Baghdad: Eye’s Delight from 26th October 2022 to 25th February 2023. The exhibition will introduce and celebrate one of the world’s most influential cities, with glimpses of its heritage as the capital of the great Abbasid caliphs (750-1258 CE) and its legacy in the 20th century, when the city again became a thriving centre for the arts, culture, and commerce. The display will comprise over 160 objects, including loaned works from Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vatican City and the Louvre Museum, Paris. The immersive exhibition design includes scenographic elements, including a depiction of the River Tigris on the floor of the exhibition that serves to connect the different themes.
“This new enhancement will benefit generations of visitors, providing an even more meaningful experience and allowing guests to explore the rich vast history of the Islamic World as told through our unparalleled collection,” shared MIA Director, Dr. Julia Gonnella.
The reimagining of the collection galleries introduces a comprehensive visitor trail, creates expanded interpretive materials to help understand the masterworks, and provides new mobile and child-friendly resources to make the museum more accessible for families and younger guests.
The galleries are organized according to broad historical and cultural themes, periods and geography, and will explore the great traditions of Islamic craftsmanship. MIA will also introduce a new section on Islam in Southeast Asia and focus on the connection between different cultures through exhibits on the trade of commodities and the exchange of ideas across the Islamic World and beyond.
“The opening of the Museum of Islamic Art in 2008 was a transformational moment for Qatar, marking the nation’s emergence as a new global cultural destination. With the planned reopening, we are excited for locals to have a chance to rediscover the museum, and we invite visitors who are coming to attend World Cup matches to experience this foremost expression of our heritage and culture,” said Sheikha Al Mayassa Al Thani, the founder and chairperson of Qatar Museums, the government entity that oversees various museums and exhibition in Qatar.
Highlights at the museum include the Blue Qur’an, the Cavour Vase, the Varanasi necklace, the Ramayana manuscript for Hamida Banu Begum, and the Franchetti tapestry.
Visitors can also discover the origins and spread of Islam, with galleries devoted to the Qur’an and its history, the Muslim Community, learning and education within Islamic cultures and finally an examination of the expansion of Islam to both Eastern and Western countries.
The museum also features a wide variety of materials used in Islamic art, including carpets and textiles, manuscripts, ceramics, wood, ivory, metalwork, stone and glass, spanning Spain and North Africa to the Far East from the earliest Islamic period to the 20th century CE. Highlights from these galleries include early Hijazi Qur’an fragments, the sitara of the Holy Ka’ba, the Moroccan arch, a precious copy of al-Sufi’s treatise on the fixed stars, the Abbasid blue-and-white bowl, the Seljuq stucco panel, the Doha Hind, and the post-Islamic Spanish ceiling.
The newly created ‘Family Trail’ is a key component of the gallery refurbishments and aims to engage young visitors on topics that relate to their own lives and experiences. Utilizing new technologies, interactive displays and multi-sensory applications further engage visitors, children and adults alike, throughout the museum.
The first Australian English speaking News Anchor in the Middle East. She is also the Author of Faces of the Middle East and Founder of US-based 501c3 charity – The House of Rest which helps to ease the suffering of victims of war. For more from our Contributing Editor, you can follow her on Instagram, here.