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Departments

Events & Exhibitions

The calendar that follows is updated bimonthly as of the 15th of each of January, March, May, July, September and November. Most institutions listed have further information available through the World Wide Web. Please reconfirm dates and times before traveling. Readers are welcome to submit information for possible inclusion in this listing through the Feedback page. (Please note in the subject line, "Events & Exhibitions.")

January

The Rainbow Behind the Black: 100 Years of Saudi Arabian Dress and Accessories. Brunei Gallery, soas, London January 1 through March 31.

Dara. It is 1659 in Mughal India. The imperial court is a place of opulence and excess. Two brothers, whose mother’s death inspired the Taj Mahal, are heirs to this Muslim empire. Now they fight ferociously for succession. Dara, the crown prince, has the love of the people—and of his emperor father—but younger brother Aurangzeb holds a different vision for India’s future. Islam inspires poetry in Dara, puritanical rigor in Aurangzeb. Can Jahanara, their beloved sister, assuage Aurangzeb’s resolve to seize the Peacock Throne and purge the empire? National Theatre, London January 20 through April 4.

Maps of Persia 1477-1925: A Graphical Journey through the History of Iran. Maps of Persia 1477-1925: A Graphical Journey through the History of Iran presents a selection of maps—urban plans, topographic maps and sea charts—taken from “Dr. Cyrus Ala’i’s Map Collection of Persia” of over 250 maps that was gifted to the Centre for Iranian Studies SOAS, University of London in 2013. The collection includes important printed general maps of Persia and more specialist items from the early editions of Ptolemy, at the end of the 15th century, up until the end of the Qajar dynasty in 1925. Brunei Gallery, SOAS, University of London January 23 through March 21.

She Who Tells a Story: Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World. She Who Tells a Story: Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World introduces the pioneering work of 12 leading women photographers: Jananne Al-Ani, Boushra Almutawakel, Gohar Dashti, Rana El Nemr, Lalla Essaydi, Shadi Ghadirian, Tanya Habjouqa, Rula Halawani, Nermine Hammam, Rania Matar, Shirin Neshat and Newsha Tavakolian. They have tackled the very notion of representation with passion and power, questioning tradition and challenging perceptions of Middle Eastern identity. Their provocative work ranges from fine art to photojournalism and provides insights into political and social issues, including questions of personal identity and exploring the complex political and social landscapes of their home regions in images of great sophistication, expressiveness and beauty. Cantor Arts Center at Stanford [California] University January 28 through May 4.

Marvels and Mirages of Orientalism: Benjamin-Constant in His Time. Marvels and Mirages of Orientalism: Benjamin-Constant in His Time is the first major exhibition on Orientalism to be presented in Canada. Through this unusual retrospective, visitors will discover the dazzling color palette of an acclaimed painter of the Belle Epoque, Jean Joseph Benjamin-Constant, who was influenced by his trips to Moorish Spain and the Morocco of the cherifas. His huge, spectacular canvasses conjure up fantasies of a dreamlike orient, viewed through the prism of folklore, ethnographic pretext and pure imagination. Montreal Museum of Fine Arts January 31 through May 31.

February

Sophie Calle: For the Last and First Time. Sophie Calle: For the Last and First Time consists of two recent projects by one of today’s leading French artists. “The Last Image” (2010), a series of photographs accompanied by texts, and “Voi la mer”(2011), a series of digital films, take an incisive poetic look at the particular reality of the mental images of blind people and at the discovery of beauty and the sublime. Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal February 5 through April 26.

Southeast Asia: 800 CE – Present. Southeast Asia: 800 CE – Present enables students to explore the arts and material culture of Burma, Thailand, Vietnam and Laos and the island nations of Indonesia, Philippines and Malaysia, all part of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which represents a broad and complex sweep of landscapes, cultures, and religions. Temple architecture, sculpture, painting and manuscripts highlight the distinctive regional characteristics of religious practice and belief. Victoria and Albert Museum, London February 9 through March 23.

March

Abdelkader Benchamma: Representation of Dark Matter. Abdelkader Benchamma: Representation of Dark Matter. Abdelkader Benchamma creates an astrological vortex in his strikingly graphic, site-specific drawing, rendered in intensely black lines against a wall’s white surface. The work depicts the solar system’s complexity and its nearly imperceptible dark matter. The physically expansive image resembles scientific illustrations of the Big Bang and alludes to explosive cosmic forces. The installation gives form to that which is infinitely large and perpetually transforming. The Drawing Center, New York March 1 through March 1.

Sharjah Biennial 12: The Past, the Present, the Possible. Sharjah Biennial 12: The Past, the Present, the Possible began to take shape in a private conversation between Danh Vo and curator Eungie Joo in early 2013. They discussed the relevance of contemporary art; and the potential or artistic positions to imagine something beyond current states of social and political confinement; and the need for artists to play active roles in imagining the possible. “SB12” showcases more than 50 artists and cultural practitioners from approximately 25 countries who participate in the process of imagining Sharjah through education, culture, religion, heritage and science by introducing ideas of the possible through art and work. Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE March 5 through June 5.

La Vie Est Une Légende E.Cité—Almaty/Kazakhstan. La Vie Est Une Légende E.Cité—Almaty/Kazakhstan: Despite a complex political situation, Kazakhstan has never ceased to nurture intense artistic activity. This project aims to show the diversity and relevance of 10 Kazakh artists’ present-day work through sculpture, photography, video and installations. The works, not previously exhibited in France, bring together in a single room common themes of Kazakhstan’s history, including Saïd Atabekov’s “Shroud of Genghis Khan” and Yerbossyn Meldibekov’s “Distorted Busts of Lenin,” and popular culture, including “The Bazaar,” recreated by Elena and Viktor Vorobyev and “The Extraordinary Textiles,” in Almagul Menlibayeva’s photographs, above. Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, Strasbourg through March 8.

The Lost Dhow: A Discovery from the Maritime Silk Route. In 1998, an Arab ship carrying goods from China was discovered at the bottom of the Indian Ocean off Belitung Island, Indonesia. Dating from the ninth century (China’s Tang Dynasty), the Belitung shipwreck is the earliest Arab vessel of this period to be found with a complete cargo, including silver ingots, bronze mirrors, spice-filled jars, intricately worked vessels of silver and gold and thousands of ceramic bowls, ewers and other vessels. Uncovering its mysterious origins reveals the interconnections between two great powers, the Tang and Abbasid empires. The exhibition provides the earliest evidence of a maritime silk route—and speaks to the vibrant exchange of ideas and technologies between peoples that occurred centuries before the Portuguese entered the region in the late 15th century. Aga Khan Museum, Toronto through March 15.

Mshatta in Focus: The Jordanian Desert Palace in Historical Photographs. The richly decorated façade of the early Islamic desert palace of Mshatta was presented as a gift from the Ottoman sultan to the German emperor in 1903, when it was transported from the Jordanian desert to Berlin, where it now forms the centerpiece of the Museum für Islamische Kunst’s collection, on show in the Pergamonmuseum. Its accession history began with a series of photographs of the façade, which circulated among European archeologists and art historians around the turn of the century and eventually landed in the hands of Kaiser Wilhelm ii. Photographic records were made at several key moments in its recent history: before and during the façade’s dismantling, after the structure was hit by a bomb during World War ii and during its subsequent restoration in the 1950s. Pergamonmuseum, Berlin through March 15.

Nasta’liq: The Genius of Persian Calligraphy. Nasta’liq: The Genius of Persian Calligraphy is the first exhibition to focus on nasta’liq, a calligraphic script developed in 14th-century Iran that remains one of the most expressive forms of esthetic refinement in Persian culture to this day. More than 20 works ranging from 1400 to 1600, the height of nasta’liq’s development, tell the story of the script’s transformation from a simple conveyer of the written word into an artistic form on its own. The narrative thread emphasizes the achievements of four of the greatest master calligraphers, whose manuscripts and individual folios were and still are appreciated not only for their content, but also for their technical virtuosity and visual quality. Sackler Gallery, Washington, D.C. through March 22.

Grand Parade: A Unique Art Installation by Jompet Kuswidananto. The Indonesian artist makes a unique presentation of his famous groups of parade figures. Rather than being retrospective of individual works, it serves as a new art installation, conceived as a dynamic whole. The assembly of life-size mechanical figures within the installation is modelled on the groups found in the Indonesian public domain during festive, ceremonial or political parades—with each figure wearing costumes, carrying musical instruments and coming into action through movement of hands, clapping and instrument playing. Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam through March 22.

Poetry and Exile in Works. Poetry and Exile in Works by Abdallah Benanteur, Ipek Duben, Mireille Kassar, Mona Saudi and Canan Tolon, drawn from recent acquisitions of works by artists of the Middle East and North Africa by the British Museum, explores the effects of exile through the eyes of five artists. There are many forms of exile expressed here. For Canan Tolon, it is exile from her home in Istanbul as a result of contracting polio as a child, the story of which she evokes in “Futur Imparfait.” Ipek Duben’s book Refugee, with its delicate gauze pages, belies the terror and helplessness of people forced to flee their homeland. Mona Saudi and Abdallah Benanteur combine the powerful verses of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish with drawings, while Mireille Kassar conjures a story of exile from her own family history and the Persian poem “The Conference of the Birds.” The British Museum, London through March 29.

Emperor Charles V Captures Tunis: Documenting a Campaign. Emperor Charles v Captures Tunis: Documenting a Campaign. In June 1535, Emperor Charles v set sail from Sardinia at the head of a fleet comprising 400 ships and more than 30,000 soldiers to reconquer the Kindgom of Tunis from the Ottomans. To document the campaign and his hoped-for victory, he was accompanied not only by historians and poets but also by his court painter, Jan Cornelizs Vermeyen. In 1543, the Flemish artist was commissioned to paint the cartoons for  12 monumental tapestries celebrating the campaign from the countless drawings and sketches he had brought back from North Africa. These unique cartoons are the focus of this exhibition, highlighting different aspects of the dramatic events of 1535. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna through March 31.

April

Egypt’s Mysterious Book of the Faiyum. Egypt’s Mysterious Book of the Faiyum is an exquisitely illustrated papyrus from Greco-Roman Egypt, one of the most intriguing ancient representations of a place ever found. The papyrus depicts the Faiyum Oasis, located to the west of the Nile, as a center of prosperity and ritual. For the first time in over 150 years, major sections owned by the Walters Art Museum and the Morgan Library & Museum, separated since the manuscript was divided and sold in the 19th century, will be reunited. Egyptian jewelry, papyri, statues, reliefs and ritual objects will illuminate the religious context that gave rise to this enigmatic text, which celebrates the crocodile god Sobek and his special relationship with the Faiyum. Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen, Mannheim, Germany through April 15.

Helen Zughaib’s Stories My Father Told Me. The art of storytelling has a vibrant history in Arab and Arab American culture. Passed down from one generation to the next, family stories help preserve the past and maintain cultural traditions. Artist Helen Zughaib’s father, Elia, still tells of his life in Lebanon and Damascus in tales of family, community, adventure and morality. These rich stories inspired her in 2003 to illustrate and, in effect, copy them down on canvas. United for the first time, these 23 paintings represent personal accounts, as well as folktales retold. Arab American National Museum, Dearborn, Michigan through April 19.

Points of Contact: New Approaches to Islamic Art. Over the past decades, the study of Islamic material culture has been marked by increased scholarly attention to transcultural dimensions of art, architecture and archeology. This interest coincides with an interest in histories of mobility generated by contemporary discourses. It has taken a variety of forms, from attention to the modalities and effects of circulation—the result of diplomatic exchange and gifting, long-distance trade, or looting and reuse, for example—to research on media and regions that lie on the margins of the Islamic world, or outside the traditional boundaries of the canon. Points of Contact is a lecture series that introduces some of the exciting new scholarship generated by these developments. Institute of Fine Arts, New York University through April 23.

May

İnci Eviner. The Drawing Center pre-sents a selection of videos by Turkish artist Inci Eviner, whose work forges a relationship between new-media techniques and traditional Turkish art practices. The repetitive, hypnotically shifting scenes depicted in the artist’s videos address contemporary feminism at the crossroads of the East and West (“the face of the middle-class woman,” as she puts it), while exploring broader historical narratives and notions of the body and performance. Eviner’s complex scenes employ a wide variety of drawing traditions, including engravings, ceramic-tile designs and architectural plans. The Drawing Center, New York May 29 through June 28.

The Traveler’s Eye: Scenes of Asia. The Traveler’s Eye: Scenes of Asia features more than 100 works created over the past five centuries, providing glimpses of travels across Asia, from pilgrimages and research trips to expeditions for trade and tourism. The exhibition juxtaposes East Asian scrolls, Japanese woodblock prints and contemporary photography with maps, archeological drawings and souvenirs, concluding with three vignettes on western travelers who recorded and remembered Asia during the last century: German archeologist Ernst Herzfeld in Central Asia, American collector and museum founder Charles Lang Freer in China, and the many travelers worldwide who shared memories with mass-produced, hand-colored postcards. Sackler Gallery, Washington, D.C. through May 31.

June

Wendell Phillips Collection. Wendell Phillips headed the largest archeological expedition to South Arabia (present-day Yemen) from 1949-1951. Accompanied by leading scholars, scientists and technicians, Phillips was on a quest to uncover two ancient cities—Tamna, the capital of the once-prosperous Qataban kingdom, and Marib, the reputed home of the legendary Queen of Sheba—that had flourished along the fabled incense road some 2,500 years earlier. Through a selection of unearthed objects as well as film and photography shot by the exhibition team, the collection highlights Phillips’s key finds, recreates his adventures and conveys the thrill of discovery on the last great archeological frontier. Sackler Gallery, Washington, D.C. through June 7.

Unearthing Arabia: The Archaeological Adventures of Wendell Phillips. Wendell Phillips headed the largest archeological expedition to South Arabia (present-day Yemen) from 1949-1951.  Accompanied by leading scholars, scientists and technicians, Phillips was on a quest to uncover two ancient cities—Tamna, the capital of the once-prosperous Qataban kingdom, and Marib, the reputed home of the legendary Queen of Sheba—that had flourished along the fabled incense road some 2500 years earlier. Through a selection of unearthed objects as well as film and photography shot by the exhibition team, the collection highlights Phillips’s key finds, recreates his adventures and conveys the thrill of discovery on the last great archeological frontier. Sackler Gallery, Washington, D.C. through June 7.

Beyond the Beat: Drums of the World. Beyond the Beat: Drums of the World explores the immeasurable cultural and historical significance of drums around the world through the presentation of dozens of drums of all shapes, sizes, materials and uses from Asia, Oceania, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Latin America and the us. The collection is accompanied by dozens of videos, photographs and multimedia content selected from sources around the globe. The unique exhibition also highlights themes ranging from varieties of drum construction and performance techniques to differing concepts of rhythm in Asia, Africa and the Americas, as well as the role of drums in rituals, military events and even systems of nonverbal communication. Musical Instrument Museum, Phoenix through June 21.

July

Pearls on a String: Art and Biography in the Islamic World. Pearls on a String: Art and Biography in the Islamic World presents the arts of Islamic cultures from the point of view of authors and artists from historical Muslim societies, offering an alternative to impersonal presentations of Islamic art. The exhibition focuses on specific people and relationships among cultural tastemakers threaded together “as pearls on a string,” a Persian metaphor for human connectedness—especially among painters, calligraphers, poets and their patrons. It highlights the exceptional art of the Islamic manuscript and underscores the book’s unique ability to relate narratives about specific people. Through a series of vignettes, the visitor is introduced to the art inextricably linked to the men and women who shaped the Islamic past and contribute to its future. Asian Art Museum of San Francisco through July 15.

India: Jewels That Enchanted the World. Examines the legacy of 500 years of Indian jewelry, from the 17th century to the present day. More than 300 pieces of jewelry and jeweled objects are brought together for the first time to showcase the beauty of Indian craftsmanship, the magnificence of gemstone setting and the refinement of Indian taste. Assembled from more than 30 museums, institutions and private collections, the exhibition is the most comprehensive ever staged on the subject. Its first section focuses on the jewelry traditions of South India: monumental pieces crafted from gold, worked in relief and decorated with gemstone flowers and birds. The second is devoted to the jeweled splendor of the courts of the Mughals, who came as conquerors, ruled as emperors and, as connoisseurs, patronized artists, architects, enamelers and jewelers. A further section is devoted to the symbiosis between India and European jewelry houses and the cross-cultural influences that resulted in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It concludes with the work of two of India’s leading present-day jewelry houses, The Gem Palace and Bhagat. Catalog in English and Russian. State Museums of Moscow Kremlin through July 27.

August

Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation. Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation elaborates on the history and contemporary experiences of Indian Americans as they have grown to be one of the more diverse and well-recognized communities in the us. Photographs, artifacts, videos and interactives trace arrival and labor participation in the early 1900s; achievements within various economic industries; and many contributions in building the nation. The exhibition also reveals how they have kept and shared their culture and organized to meet the needs of the under-served. Asian Pacific American Center, Washington, D.C. through August 16.

September

Pearls on a String: Art and Biography in the Islamic World (Doha). Pearls on a String: Art and Biography in the Islamic World presents the arts of Islamic cultures from the point of view of authors and artists from historical Muslim societies, offering an alternative to impersonal presentations of Islamic art. Instead, the exhibition focuses on specific people and relationships among cultural tastemakers threaded together “as pearls on a string,” a Persian metaphor for human connectedness—especially among painters, calligraphers, poets and their patrons. The exhibition highlights the exceptional art of the Islamic manuscript and underscores the book’s unique ability to relate narratives about specific people. Through a series of vignettes, the visitor is introduced to the art inextricably linked to the men and women who shaped the Islamic past and contribute to its future. Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar September 1.

Chief S.O. Alonge: Photographer to the Royal Court of Benin, Nigeria. Chief S.O. Alonge: Photographer to the Royal Court of Benin, Nigeria showcases the photographs of Chief Solomon Osagie Alonge (1911-1994), one of Nigeria’s premier photographers and the first official photographer to the Royal Courts of Benin. Alonge’s historic photographs document the rituals, pageantry and regalia of the court for more than a half century and provide rare insight into the early history and practice of studio photography in West Africa. [Note: closing date is in 2015.] National Museum of African Art, Washington, D.C. through September 13.

October

New Threads Staged Reading Series. Golden Thread’s staged reading series returns, introducing five new plays from and about the Middle East to Bay Area audiences. This year’s lineup includes Middle East America Honorable Mention winners Ismail Khalidi and Daria Polatin, a hit from London by Hassan Abdulrazzak, and a work-in-progress presentation of a new work by Artistic Director Torange Yeghiazarian. The series launches with a sneak peek at the short plays selected for the ReOrient 2015 Festival. Audiences will have an opportunity to ask questions and engage the artists in conversation after each reading. Thick House, San Francisco through October 31.

November

The Invisible Hand. “The Invisible Hand,” a work by the Pulitzer Prize-winning American playwright Ayad Akhtar, will be presented in the 2014-2015 season of the New York Theatre Workshop. The play is about an American stockbroker kidnapped by Islamic militants, and how his perspective on his captors evolves as he negotiates for his release. New York Theatre November 1 through December 31.

December

Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt. Presents 30 artworks selected from the museum’s extensive Egyptian collection: feral and tame cats, stone or bronze cats, small or large cats, domestic or divine cats. The exhibition explores the role of cats, lions and other felines in Egyptian mythology, kingship and everyday life, where they were revered for their fertility, associated with royalty and valued for their ability to protect homes and granaries from rats and mice. On public view for the first time is a gilded leonine goddess dating from between 770 and 412 BCE that entered the Brooklyn collection in 1937. Brooklyn Museum, New York through December 31.

CULTURUNNERS. On the occasion of the UN’s International Day of Peace on September 21, the Rothko Chapel, in partnership with Art Jameel, hosts the launch of Edge of Arabia’s multi-year us tour of this independent artists’ expedition. In the spirit of the chapel’s mission to inspire people to action through art and contemplation and to provide a forum for global concerns, the event enables pioneering artists, scholars and community groups to cultivate new perspectives on cultural collaborations beyond identities defined by culture, religion, nation, citizenship, economic status, profession, gender or age. Rothko Chapel, Houston through December 31.

May

Gold and the Gods: Jewels of Ancient Nubia . Gold and the Gods: Jewels of Ancient Nubia draws on the world-class collection of jewelry from ancient Nubia (located in what is now Sudan) accumulated by the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), which constitute the most comprehensive collection outside Khartoum. “Gold and the Gods” focuses on excavated ornaments from an early 20th-century expedition by MFA with Harvard University, dating from 1700 BCE to 300 CE, including both uniquely Nubian and foreign imports, prized for their materials, craftsmanship, symbolism and rarity. MFA, Boston through May 14.