It is indeed my sincere hope that in shaping its educational programmes and policies and in developing its presentation of art as a vehicle of discovery and understanding, the future Aga Khan Museum will be able to cooperate closely with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. Nothing could please me more than to know that the exhibition presented here is a first step in this important direction.

In 1983, I had the pleasure of visiting the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and was very impressed with its activities and vision. When the first president of the Foundation, José de Azeredo Perdigão, showed me a model of the buildings and the proposed Centre for Contemporary Art, which was due to be opened a few months later, it was perhaps the first time I gauged the extraordinary potential of a museum institution from an outreach and educational perspective.

Twenty-five years later, the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum is generously hosting an exhibition of some of the most important works of Islamic art from our collection, that in due course we will house in the Aga Khan Museum (AKM) in Toronto, Canada. In the hall outside your exhibition stands the model of this future museum, with information as to its structure and facilities. It is expected to open in 2011.

Of course, our collections are as yet modest in size in relation to the exceptional collection of arts from all major cultures — including Islamic arts — which Calouste Gulbenkian brought together with such extraordinary flair and taste.

Of course, our collections are as yet modest in size in relation to the exceptional collection of arts from all major cultures — including Islamic arts — which Calouste Gulbenkian brought together with such extraordinary flair and taste. The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation will also, surely, be a model for our future institution in Toronto, on how the presentation of artworks can bring about an awareness of the commonalities which are at the heart of cultural diversity and pluralism.

No one can deny that today, there are distressing and even dangerous tensions between the Muslim world and the West. With its history and cultures, and indeed its different interpretations of Islam, the Muslim world is still little known in the West, as are its contributions to global cultural heritage and patrimony. This lack of knowledge is a dramatic reality which currently manifests itself in a particularly serious way in many Western democracies, through widespread attitudes and approaches to Muslim societies and countries. Be that as it may, the two worlds, Muslim and non-Muslim, Eastern and Western, must, as a matter of urgency, make real efforts to get to know one another better, for I fear that what we have is not a clash of civilisations, but a clash of ignorance on both sides.

Insofar as civilisations manifest and express them-selves through their art, museums have an essential role to play in facilitating respect and appreciation of social structures, values and faiths that are an integral part of the societies which produced the art, thereby, ensuring that whole populations are given the opportunity to understand each other, using new, modern methods imaginatively and intelligently.

It is indeed my sincere hope that in shaping its educational programmes and policies and in developing its presentation of art as a vehicle of discovery and understanding, the future Aga Khan Museum will be able to cooperate closely with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. Nothing could please me more than to know that the exhibition presented here is a first step in this important direction.

His Highness the Aga Khan IV

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