Islamic Art, Bridges the World at the Metropolitan Museum

“New Islamic Art Documentary Bridges Worlds” (touring the US )

Daniel Tutt is the Outreach Director at Unity Productions Foundation

“The mainstream portrayal of Islam does not usually deal with transcendent beauty, elegant ornamentation, or intricate calligraphy. But might art be one of the keys to healing some of the chasms and conflicts that have plagued Muslim-West relations over the last 10 years? The power of art to build bridges of understanding is becoming more recognized as a vital component to repairing the Muslim-West divide. The new exhibit on Islamic art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art has already attracted thousands…”

“… the ART of living together.” ….OR NOT…..

  • No apologies.
  • No regrets for destroying churches and synagogues.
  • No mention of forced conversions.
  • The mandatory jizya tax for infidels.
  • The murders of those who resisted the oppression of Muslim Rule.
  • Celebrate Islamic Art.
  • Explore a ‘collaboration’ of cultures under Muslim Rule.

The “Beauty” of Islam. A “MIRROR of the INVISIBLE World”.


On Thursday, March 15, 2012 (NYC)  6:00 PM I attended a screening of a new documentary at the Metropolitan Museum. A film made by the same team that brought us Inside Islam; What a Billion Muslims Think” in 2009,  Executive Producer Alex Kronemer and Director, Rob Gardner.

The evening was hosted by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Unity Productions Foundation and the Turkish Cultural Center.

The film,  Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World followed by a viewing of the new gallery

The Art of the Arab Lands: Turkey, Iran, central Asia and later South Asia



Donna Williams (Chief Audience Development Officer, Metropolitan Museum of Art)   

Sheila Canby (Curator in Charge of Museum’s Department of Islamic Art)

Mehmet Kilic ( Vice President, Turkish Cultural Center New York)

Alex Kronemer (Executive Producer, Unity Production Foundation)

Kronemer (a revert to Islam) gave the audience a ‘proper’ Inter-Faith greeting, including Hindi. He explained, “The purpose of the film is to educate the American public. To display the ART of living together” and that we will be seeing 60 minutes of a 90 minute film.

The film introduced us to the visible and INvisible World of Islamic Art.

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Their goal:

“Working for Peace and Understanding through media and to shed Light on Islamic ‘culture’.

Two themes were omitted for the screening (didn’t say what they were). I think what we saw were “the Word, Space, Ornament and Color. ” We learned that Islamic figurative art is misunderstood.

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We were urged to

“Embrace good. Beautiful reconciliation. Avoid conflict. Choose LIFE” 

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A glowing look at Islamic history through the ART of Islamic World. No negatives, no destruction wrought by Muslim conquests, only of the beauty of Islamic Art.

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Islam is Beautiful. Peaceful.  Uplifting.  (Just look at their ART)

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From the Metropolitan Museum, New Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia 

“With its geographic spread and long history, Islamic art was inevitably subject to a wide range of regional and even national styles and influences as well as changes within the various periods of its development. It is all the more remarkable then that, even under these circumstances, Islamic art has always retained its intrinsic quality and unique identity. Just as the religion of Islam embodies a way of life and serves as a cohesive force among ethnically and culturally diverse peoples, the art produced by and for Muslim societies has basic identifying and unifying characteristics. Perhaps the most salient of these is the predilection for all-over surface decoration. The four basic components of Islamic ornament are calligraphy, vegetal patterns, geometric patterns, and figural representation….from the seventh to the nineteenth century.”


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Some quotes I notated from the film, 

“Islamic Art. Part of who ‘we’ are today. Sheds light on our SHARED history. An anchor. A bridge.

An incredible journey. Beneath the surface. Mirror Images of the World. Physical manifestations. Mystery. Inspiration.  ‘Invisible’ pictures of nine countries; 1400 years of history in the making. Beautiful. Dramatic. Some buildings were opened just for this documentary.”

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Notes continued, “THE POWER OF IDEAS. Tell us what’s BEST in us. HOPE is common thread in these great works of Muslim artisans. The conflict and contact of civilizations. “Sometimes” political. A clash of civilizations BUT they CAME TOGETHER IN ART.

Most that was ‘troubled’ was forgotten. What was good, ART… survived. ” 

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In the film, as Islam spreads rapidly across the map, ravaging Europe, the Middle East, Africa, India, we are told this is when ‘ Islamic Art “developed” ‘ (AND IT WAS GOOD)

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Part 2: THE WORD

Dawn. 610 AD. The Word of God. What Man Did Not know. The Quran was God’s Gift to Mankind.

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Film jumps now to Jerusalem. 692 AD and the “Dome of the Rock”, where “Big Mo’ was supposed to have ‘gone to heaven’.  (Susan Sarandon recites this narrative). We are told, the Arabic inscription that encircles the Dome makes it unique….in gold….like a HALO…but this is better than a Christian halo, cause its from the Qur’an (The Word). The environment is surrounded by The Word….

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And also SURROUNDED by minarets. But, it’s the 21st c. Why not APOLOGIZE.  Let it be a church as INTENDED    ………..    R-E-S-P-E-C-T   ……….

Mosque - Hagia Sophia

We are told the focus when writing the words is on “the ART”. Because it’s calligraphy. ART. And its tools, ‘Artists’ tools. The Nib is trimmed to a certain type of point. Very important. Mystical. And the creation of paper made calligraphy even better. Paper was from China, the China of the Islamic Caliphate. But also, God speaks thru pen to paper. A meditation. Looking to see the divine. The Divine Presence in the Words.

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“War. Conflict. Triumph. Catastrophe. What endured? Creativity. Intelligence. The TRUE Legacy of Islam is Islamic ART.”

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ARCHITECTURE is the MIRROR of the Invisible World. The 7th c was ‘the turning point in history (no kidding)

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Part 3 – SPACE

The first mosques were simple unadorned brick. Damascus (Syria) 715 AD has one of the oldest. The great mosque has the largest mosaic in the world.

The largest mud brick building in the world is the Great Mosque of Djenné in Mali.

Notes from screening continue:

“Violent Muslim Rebellion. Went to North Africa. 14th c Spain.  To Cordoba. They needed artisans who could make the mosaics.  It was a distinct art, different from Byzantine/Roman.

1453.  Muslims captured Constantinople, aka Istanbul. Suleiman was a great Cultural Patron. 16th c Making beautiful things; creating a NEW Empire. Like Solomon. Jerusalem and the Dome of the Rock. Dome was worth re-doing. 1558.  He was a great patron architect. The Hagia Sophia. BETTER things were added. They IMPROVED it.”

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Quote from another article, University of Illinois Landscape Architecture Prof. Fairchild Ruggles points out,

“Sometimes material objects can be the bridge between one world and another. Translucent glass is beautiful regardless of your religious background. Monumental tall domes that stretch over the heads like the heavens above are awesome whoever you are.”


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“Heaven. Reflects deep interest in geometry. Central to Islam. Social need based on geometry. Directional time. prayer. navigate desert.

Secular, worldly images. Figurative Islamic Art. In Spain. 10th c. Griffins, Lions, Ivory, men on Horse. Regarding pictures of Mohammed, Muslims feared doing.

Textiles (faces). 16th c. India (Moghuls).  Diverse Heritage. Stone inlay. Cut and shape semi-precious stones. Jasper. Topaz. Flora. Fauna. Dramatic Islamic Art.

The Taj Mahal (1628) Love for wife in this mausoleum for woman who was so special to him, the mother of his children (no mention of other wives and other children)

The Taj Mahal, Agra, India

In Qur’an we are told: 

 ” God said, ‘ To know me, know my creations.’ “

The Gallery;

After the screening we walked to the second floor. Had lots of freedom to walk around this new gallery,  taking pictures and video. Seemed to be no restrictions. It’s laid out well. Colorful. Attractive.

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There were many Muslim families and couples taking in the screening and gallery. I am assuming  this gallery will do well, as they tell their friends and families to check out the Islamic Art Tribute.  Still feel that the lack of a critique, of who influenced whom, was missing. Whose art was it really’ Who gets the credit. ( guess that’s why they call it a  ‘collaboration’)

Three Slides shows

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3




Islamic Art TV

” It explores themes such as the Word, Space, Ornament, Color and Water and presents the stories behind many great masterworks of Islamic Art and Architecture.

The film explores the richness of Islamic art in objects big and small, from great ornamented palaces and the play of light in monumental mosques to the exquisite beauty of ceramics, carved boxes, paintings and metal work. It revels in the use of color and finds commonalities in a shared artistic heritage with the West and East. The film also examines the unique ways in which Islamic art turns calligraphy and the written word into masterpieces and develops water into an expressive, useful art form.”

Trailer for the documentary


No discussion of forced conversions. No mention of cultures obliterated, just cultural collaboration.

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The destruction of churches and synagogues unmentioned just like Islamic slavery of the infidel ( still happening in the world today.)

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And as the Muslim Invasion continues, their version of history goes unchallenged in this visible and invisible world of the 21st c.

A Mirror of the World….


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