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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.")

March

Images of Women in 19th-Century Iran. Images of Women in 19th-Century Iran demonstrates the centrality of women in the artistic expression of 19th-century Iran and how it continues to inspire contemporary artists. The most popular representations of the Qajar era have been of male sovereigns, whose life-size portraits exaggerate masculinity to depict power. Yet this era also saw a period of artistic modernization in Iran, particularly in paintings and photography, in which depictions of women became essential elements of the scenes. Showcasing women at the court, and in private, alongside images of female musicians and aristocratic women, this exhibition explores rarely told narratives of the Qajar artistic tradition. Museum of Islamic Arts, Doha, Qatar March 25 through January 30.

April

One God – Abraham’s Descendants on the Nile: Jews, Christians and Muslims in Egypt from the Ancient World to the Middle Ages. The longest tradition of coexistence between peoples of the Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths is in Egypt. Seen for the first time from this unifying angle, the exhibition takes a closer look at the many facets of religious life and the day-to-day coexistence of the three faith communities in the country from the time of the Romans all the way up to the end of the reign of the Fatimids in the 12th century. The exhibition starts in the city of Alexandria—the political, cultural and theological capital founded in 331 bce by Alexander the Great. The Egyptian Christians emerged and splintered from the Alexandrian Jewish community, with Christianity eventually becoming the dominant state religion until the arrival of the Arabs in 641. In the following centuries, Muslim rulers developed their own cultural and artistic identity, formed from the long-standing Greco-Roman tradition. Bode-Museum, Berlin April 2 through September 13.

Ancient Lives, New Discoveries . Introduces visitors to eight people from ancient Egypt and Sudan whose bodies have been preserved, either naturally or by deliberate embalming. Using the latest technology, the exhibition builds up a rounded picture of their lives, their health, their occupations and how they died, all in the Nile Valley over a span of 4000 years—from ancient Egypt to Christian Sudan. The individuals on display include a priest’s daughter, a temple singer, a middle-aged man, a young child, a temple doorkeeper and a woman with a Christian tattoo. British Museum, London through April 19.

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.

Sultans of Deccan India, 1500-1700: Opulence and Fantasy. The Deccan plateau of south-central India was home to a succession of highly cultured Muslim kingdoms with a rich artistic heritage. Under their patronage in the 16th and 17th centuries, foreign influences—notably from Iran, Turkey, eastern Africa and Europe—combined with ancient and prevailing Indian traditions to create a distinctive Indo-Islamic art and culture. This exhibition will bring together some 165 of the finest works from major international, private and royal collections. Featuring many remarkable loans from India, the exhibition—which is the most comprehensive museum presentation on this subject to date—will explore the unmistakable character of classical Deccani art in various media: poetic lyricism in painting, lively creations in metalwork and a distinguished tradition of textile production. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York April 20 through July 26.

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.

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 through April 26.

May

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 through May 4.

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.

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 through May 31.

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.

Bazm and Razm: Feast and Fight in Persian Art. For centuries, Persian kingship was epitomized by two complementary pursuits: bazm (feast) and razm (fight). The ruler’s success as both a reveler and hunter/warrior distinguished him as a worthy and legitimate sovereign. The pairing of bazm and razm as the ultimate royal activities is an ancient concept with roots in pre-Islamic Iran. It is a recurring theme in the Shahnama (Book of Kings)—the Persian national epic—as well as other poetic and historic texts. This exhibition features some three dozen works of art in various media, created between the 15th century and the present day. Works from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Department of Islamic Art that illustrate the linked nature of bazm and razm are displayed alongside corresponding works—primarily Persian—from the departments of Asian Art, Arms and Armor, and Musical Instruments. The exhibition charts the gradual shift in meaning and usage of this pairing as it emerged from a strictly royal, or princely, context and became more widespread. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York through May 31.

Connecting Continents: Indian Ocean Trade and Exchange. Connecting Continents: Indian Ocean Trade and Exchange is a small display featuring objects that show the long and complex history of Indian Ocean trade and exchange from ancient times. For thousands of years, the Indian Ocean has been a space through which people, objects and ideas have circulated. The monsoon winds enabled merchants to travel among Africa, the Middle East and Asia, exchanging valuable commodities such as textiles, spices and ceramics. From early coastal trade between the great ancient civilizations of the Indus Valley and Mesopotamia through to the heyday of European East India companies until now, the Indian Ocean has remained a dynamic economic maritime zone. This display presents objects from across different sections of the British Museum’s collection, including a 19th-century boat from Indonesia, created entirely from cloves, and a Roman necklace made from sapphires and garnets, to tell this fascinating history of global interaction. The British Museum, London through May 31.

June

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 through June 5.

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

Animal Fables in Islamic Art. Animal Fables in Islamic Art focuses on the real and mythical animals that appear in the legends, tales and fables of the Islamic world. Divided into quadrants of earth, air, fire and water, these marvelous creatures introduce timeless stories such as the well-known and beloved classics Shahnameh and 1001 Nights. Animals feature in the artistic production of diverse cultures from far-flung times and places that are nonetheless connected by their shared celebration of traditional fables and the messages, knowledge and lessons found in these stories. The exhibition offers interactive experiences, and the majority of artworks presented are on display for the first time. A wide range of programs for adults, schools and families accompanies the exhibition. The Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar through July 11.

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

El Hadji Sy: Painting, Performance, Politics. In 1985, the Weltkulturen Museum in Frankfurt commissioned the artist and curator El Hadji Sy (born 1954 in Dakar, Senegal) to assemble a new group of works of contemporary art from from his homeland, to initiate a long-term relationship between the two cities. Thirty years later, as part of a programmatic investigation into its collection, the museum presents a retrospective of Sy’s career as a painter and cultural activist. The exhibition combines Sy’s installations and paintings—sometimes executed with his bare feet or produced on such unusual surfaces as industrial rice sacking or synthetic kite silk—with his selection of ethnographic objects and artworks by colleagues from Senegal. It includes loans from international private collections in addition to works from the museum’s own collections. As a founder of the collective Laboratoire AGIT’ART, and a curator of numerous artist-led workshops and studio spaces in Dakar, Sy is known for an interdisciplinary practice that continues to break new ground. Weltkulturen Museum, Frankfurt, through October 18. through October 18.

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.

Woven Luxuries: Indian, Persian and Turkish Textiles from the Indictor Collection. Used for furnishings—as carpets, spreads, bolsters, hangings, clothing—and exchanged as diplomatic gifts, silk velvets have been preeminent luxury textiles in many parts of the Islamic world and Europe, especially from the 15th century onwards. The 11 textiles in this exhibition, selected from a private New York collection, provide a glimpse into the richness and diversity of Iranian, Indian and Turkish silk velvets. Spanning three distinct cultural areas with their own design sensibilities and tastes, this group of textiles showcases different techniques of velvet production and suggests their varied uses. Of special note are the two complete 17th-century carpets from India and Iran, each measuring nearly 1.83 by 1.22 meters (72 x 48") and retaining not only their design elements but also their vibrant colors. These, along with nine other substantial textile fragments, show the cultural exchange between the Mughal, Safavid and Ottoman empires—and their shifting political, religious and economic ties. Asian Art Museum. San Francisco through November 1.

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. 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. Walters Art Museum, Baltimore November 8 through January 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.

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 through March 1.

November

Egypt’s Sunken Secrets. Egypt’s Sunken Secrets will display 293 artifacts from different Egyptian museums: 18 from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square, 22 from the Graeco-Roman Museum, 31 from the Alexandria National Museum, 15 from the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Museum and 207 from the Sunken Monuments Department. Institut du monde arabe, Paris, September 7 through January 2016; Martin-Gropius-Bau exhibition hall, Berlin, April 15 through August 2016; London November 15 through March 15.

December

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.