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New Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia

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On November 1, 2011, the Museum opened a suite of fifteen dramatic New Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia. The greatly enlarged, freshly conceived, and completely renovated galleries house the Metropolitan's renowned collection of Islamic art—one of the finest and most comprehensive collections of this material in the world. Design features within the new space highlight both the diversity and the interconnectedness of the numerous cultures represented here; multiple entryways allow visitors to approach the new galleries—and the art displayed within—from different perspectives.

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Transcript available in Met Media

In sequence, the fifteen new galleries trace the course of Islamic civilization over a span of thirteen centuries, from the Middle East to North Africa, Europe, and Central and South Asia. This new geographic orientation signals a revised perspective on this important collection, recognizing that the monumentality of Islam did not create a single, monolithic artistic expression, but instead connected a vast geographic expanse through centuries of change and cultural influence. The public will find galleries filled with magnificent works of art that evoke the plurality of the Islamic tradition and the vast cross-fertilization of ideas and artistic forms that has shaped our shared cultural heritage.

About the Galleries

Floor Plan

Gallery 450: Introductory Gallery

Gallery 451: Arab Lands and Iran in the Umayyad and Abbasid Periods (7th–13th centuries)

Gallery 452: Nishapur and the Sabz Pushan Site

Gallery 453: Iran and Central Asia (9th–13th centuries)

Gallery 454: Egypt and Syria (10th–16th centuries)

Gallery 455: Iran and Central Asia (13th–16th centuries)

Gallery 456: Moroccan Court

Gallery 457: Spain, North Africa, and the Western Mediterranean (8th–19th centuries)

Gallery 458: Special Exhibitions

Gallery 459: Ottoman Art

Gallery 460: Ottoman Art

Gallery 461: The Damascus Room (18th century)

Gallery 462: Safavid and Later Iran (16th–20th centuries)

Gallery 463: Mughal South Asia and Later South Asia

Gallery 464: Mughal South Asia and Later South Asia

Although the galleries represent a vast territory over a long period of time, the diverse artworks shown here are nonetheless unified in several distinctive ways. Primary among these is the extensive use of Arabic script, which resulted in exceptional examples of calligraphy—often in conventional media, such as metalwork or architectural elements—and virtuosic achievements in the arts of the book. A profound love of embellishment is often expressed through intricately interlaced, complex geometric forms that are most familiar to us in textiles, woodwork, and tilework. There are many examples of luxury materials, due to royal patronage. And technical expertise of the highest level is always evident, no matter what the medium. Because the objects in the galleries are primarily secular in nature, they can easily be appreciated both for their innate utility and for their astonishing beauty.

The collection comprises more than twelve thousand works of art drawn from an area that extends from Spain in the west to India in the east. Some twelve hundred works of art in all media are on view at any time, representing all major regions and artistic styles, from the seventh century onward. (Displays of textiles and works on paper will change frequently due to the sensitivity of these materials to light.)

View highlights from the collection.

As part of the reinstallation of the galleries, a team of conservators and scientists engaged in an extensive program of conservation of the major objects within the collection, from the Museum's remarkable collection of manuscripts to fragile glass objects and rare and precious carpets.

History of Galleries and Construction

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The new 19,000-square-foot (1,800-square-meter) galleries house the collection of the Museum's Department of Islamic Art, more than 12,000 works of art acquired through gift and purchase over the entire span of the Museum's 140-year history. The first dedicated suite of galleries for this collection was inaugurated in 1975 under the direction of department chairman Richard Ettinghausen. [Read the related article "Displaying Islamic Art at the Metropolitan: A Retrospective Look" (February 2, 2012) by Visiting Committee Member Rebecca Lindsey.]

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The galleries were closed for renovation in May 2003 as part of the Museum's comprehensive "21st-Century Met" interior construction project throughout the south wing of its Fifth Avenue building. While the galleries were closed, thematic displays of selected highlights of the collection were shown continuously on the balcony overlooking the Museum's Great Hall and in various locations elsewhere in the Main Building. Major exhibitions were also organized by the Department of Islamic Art and presented at the Metropolitan Museum, including The Legacy of Ghengis Khan: Courtly Art and Culture in Western Asia, 1256–1353; Pearls of the Parrot of India: The Emperor Akbar's Illustrated Khamsa; and Venice and the Islamic World, 828–1797.

Structure and System: The Roots of Islamic Design
September 7, 2014
Free with Museum admission
Arts of the Islamic World
September 9, 2014
Free with Museum admission
Arts of the Islamic World
September 10, 2014
Free with Museum admission

Last updated: Friday, August 22

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