Last winter, the Education Department and the Department of Islamic Art began to research and plan an extended fifteen-month residency with visual artist Peter Hristoff. Over this time Peter has worked with staff in both departments to co-plan programs that engage a wide variety of Met visitors—from those interested in hearing an artist's views on works in the collection to events that invite participants to create art themselves. Born in Istanbul to a family of Bulgarian artists and strongly influenced by Turkish art, Hristoff is now drawing from his own research of the Met's collection to develop a variety of programs that will connect many different audiences with works of art across the Museum, including those to be featured in the upcoming exhibition The Great Age of the Seljuqs, opening in April 2016.
Supported by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, the residency is part of a three-year series of programs that will use the Met's historic collection as a touchstone to celebrate the robust living traditions of the Islamic world. The Met's goals in granting this residency are to promote a greater understanding of the diversity of contemporary Muslim culture through the practice of a working artist, to connect visitors with art and culture across time and geography, to promote the Museum as a creative site, and to deepen our relationship with an artist in our collection.
Peter uses painting, printmaking, and traditional Turkish rugs to explore themes of joy, sorrow, hope, despair, belief, and desire. A graduate of the School of Visual Arts (SVA) and Hunter College, City University of New York, Hristoff is the recipient of the Joan Mitchell Award in Painting, the New York Foundation for the Arts Award in Drawing, and the Moon and Stars Project Grant. Since the mid-1980s he has divided his time between Turkey and the United States, and is currently a professor of Painting and Drawing at the School of Visual Arts.
Peter exhibited his first series of rugs at the Museum of Hagia Sophia in 2005. In 2008, Peter was invited to be an artist in residence at Priene Hali, then a fledgling workshop that had initially trained twenty female weavers in the small farming village of Güllübahçe, located in the Meandros River valley in western Turkey. During his stay, he created a series of original motifs inspired by the ruins in Priene that could be used to produce rugs depicting the region's history and mythology. Building on the cultural exchange that he enjoyed during his initial stay at Priene, Hristoff subsequently invited colleagues and students at SVA to design rugs to be produced by the weavers and displayed at the 2010 Meandros Festival, an annual celebration of the cultural heritage of the region. Although the weavers now support themselves mostly on part-time seasonal work such as harvesting olives or raising honey bees, the goal of the cooperative is to one day become self-sustaining through rug sales and commissions.
Future posts on Now at the Met will discuss Peter's residency, process, and ideas. As part of his residency, Hristoff will be facilitating and teaching public programs in the galleries through May 2016. Be sure to join Peter for his first public program on Friday, November 13, at 7:00 p.m.—a gallery talk on a prayer rug in the Met's collection.
MetFridays—Conversation with an Artist: Prayer Rug with Niche Design, Islamic Art (Friday, November 13, 7:00 p.m.)