I am very grateful to the Sakip Sabanci Museum, and to the Chairman of its Board, Ms Güler Sabanci, for hosting this presentation of treasures of the future Aga Khan Museum’s collections …

The choice was made to focus on the arts of the book and calligraphy, themes which have been central to Islamic culture for close to fifteen hundred years. They are the core of the future Aga Khan Museum’s collection, and the works on parchment and paper shown here are complemented by a range of objects (metalwork, ceramics, wooden beams, textiles, jewellery, etc.) bearing examples of fine epigraphy, both Qur’anic and poetic.

I am very grateful to the Sakip Sabanci Museum, and to the Chairman of its Board, Ms Güler Sabanci, for hosting this presentation of treasures of the future Aga Khan Museum’s collections, particularly in this year 2010 when Istanbul celebrates its heritage as cultural capital of Europe.

Istanbul has always been a nexus between Europe and the Muslim world, and it is even more so today than ever before. This has been brilliantly demonstrated by the exhibition, on the city’s 8,000 years of history, which preceded ours. Our exhibition now takes, so to speak, a step eastwards — or to be more precise, towards the broader Dar al-Islam, in its classical extension which spread from Spain and the Maghrib to the Far East.

The choice was made to focus on the arts of the book and calligraphy, themes which have been central to Islamic culture for close to fifteen hundred years. They are the core of the future Aga Khan Museum’s collection, and the works on parchment and paper shown here are complemented by a range of objects (metalwork, ceramics, wooden beams, textiles, jewellery, etc.) bearing examples of fine epigraphy, both Qur’anic and poetic.

The collection presented here will provide the public with greater insight into the pluralism of Muslim cultures, with aesthetics as contrasting as those of the Mughal Empire in India and the Fatimids in Egypt. At the same time, a common ground can be perceived, as well as the cross-cultural exchanges which at all times took place with local cultures, as with the Far East and Europe. At a time when ignorance of different specificities breeds intolerance, this exhibition seeks to underline commonalities and draw attention to our shared artistic heritage.

The Aga Khan Museum, which will house the pieces in this exhibition and close to one thousand other objects, spanning a millennium of Islamic history, is under construction in Toronto, Canada, and will open in 2013. It will be the first museum dedicated to Islamic arts and culture in North America, and will have a key role in the field of education. Hopefully this exhibition at the Sakip Sabanci Museum will be the first step in a durable cooperation between our institutions to bring understanding of the cultural accomplishments of our civilisations to the attention of a wider international public.

His Highness the Aga Khan IV

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