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The Making of a Collection: Islamic Art at the Metropolitan

The exhibition is made possible by The Hagop Kevorkian Fund.

The Making of a Collection

Islamic Art at the Metropolitan

November 1, 2011–February 5, 2012

The Metropolitan Museum of Art houses one of the largest, most comprehensive collections of Islamic art in the world. This could not have been achieved without the generosity of dedicated individuals who supported the Museum with gifts and bequests. This exhibition is a chronological study of some of the Museum's major donor-collectors, whose gifts form the core of the collection of the Department of Islamic Art, illuminating the factors and motivations that inspired their collecting habits.

Particular attention is paid to the early collectors during the first decades of Islamic art collecting in America, a period when as much as fifty percent of the Department's collection was established. From the last quarter of the nineteenth century to the early 1930s, objects from the Islamic world were introduced to the American market as exotic treasures and gradually gained public recognition. The interest in travel to the Middle East that had earlier spawned a vast travel literature in Europe caught on in America as well. It was the time of the Orientalist movement. At international expositions, governments of the Near East erected pavilions in which imported objects and parts of buildings where shown and, afterward, sold to Americans. Oriental art dealers played a critical role: as tastemakers for Islamic art, they acted as intermediaries between governments, American collectors, and museums.

Since then, the Metropolitan's collection has continued to grow and, as in the past, generous donors continue to support its acquisitions. Today, the collection comprises approximately twelve thousand objects, of which—in conjunction with the reopening of the New Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia—twelve hundred are now on view.

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