DMA aims to bridge cultural divide with appointment of senior advisor of Islamicart
With its recent announcement to a return to free general admission (beginning January 21, 2013), the Dallas Museum of Art continues to build on the innovative model devised by its director, Maxwell L. Anderson — a model designed to make the DMA a leader in museum engagement unsurpassed by other American institutions of art.
This includes the recent appointment of Sabiha Al Khemir, the founding director of the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar, and the DMA’s first senior advisor of Islamic art. A nationally known authority on Islamic art from the seventh century to the present, Khemir will work closely with the DMA to further its connections with the great collections of Islamic art. CultureMap took a moment to discover just how she plans to do this.
CultureMap: Tell us a little bit about how you were approached by Maxwell Anderson to take on your role at the DMA.
“Dallas will be a shining example for everyone,” says Sabiha Al Khemir. “Bringing Islamic art to Dallas is a very positive step toward the cultural bridging that is much needed with Islamic culture.”
Sabiha Al Khemir: Maxwell Anderson has had plans for Islamic art for a long time. I met Dr. Anderson a few years ago in Austria, and he was interested in my work at the Doha Museum of Islamic Art.
I came to live in New York City over three years ago and worked as the project director of an Islamic art show entitled Beauty and Belief — Crossing Bridges with the Arts of Islamic Culture. Dr. Anderson took this show to the Indianapolis Museum of Art, where he was director, but moved to Dallas before seeing it open.
As part of his international plan for the DMA, Dr. Anderson recognizes the importance of Islamic art and culture. Soon after he joined the DMA, he invited me to join him in developing this important part of his vision for the museum.
CM: How have you found the DMA’s global collections differ from some of the other institutions you've worked with in the past?
SAK: The DMA has an encyclopedic collection that touches on East and West, ancient and contemporary. Its breadth reflects a large scale, even though it does not yet have a large collection of Islamic art. But we are at the beginning of a journey!
CM: How will you be promoting Islamic art in Dallas, and are you working on any specific exhibitions for 2013?
SAK: By helping the Islamic art collection of the DMA to grow, through museum purchases and long-term loans, as well as organizing Islamic art shows. There are certainly plans for exhibitions, and themes and dates will be announced soon.
CM: Can you share with CultureMap readers how bringing Islamic art to Dallas can help bridge cultural divides?
SAK: Islamic art is an art that is very close to the people who made it. It is a window into a culture, itself diverse and complex. Islamic art is a tool for communicating a way of life as well as a way of seeing the world that is particular to the Islamic world.
Through Islamic art, museum visitors will come into contact with the material culture of Islam and will have the opportunity to learn directly about the Islamic world. Through appreciating the beauty of a different people, the way they express their particular coherence of the world, we find differences and similarities and perception shifts on all sides.
Dallas is a powerful city, and it is through the role played by such an important city that perceptions can shift. Dallas will be a shining example for everyone. Bringing Islamic art to Dallas is a very positive step toward the cultural bridging that is much needed with Islamic culture.
There can be no cultural bridging without understanding, and the arts can play a major role in that.