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Designed by the architect IM Pei, who came out of retirement to build it, on one condition: that it would be forever isolated from the rest of the city. The Museum of Islamic Art opened in December 2008 on its own specially created island. The purity of the architecture is quite wonderful, supposedly inspired by Tunis, but equally something that the great 16th-century Ottoman architect Sinan would have appreciated.
The museum houses a dazzling collection of works gathered since the late 1980s, including manuscripts, textiles and ceramics. It is one of the world’s most complete collections of Islamic artifacts, with items originating in Spain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, India, and Central Asia. Note the years at the end of each object’s inventory number, which gives away the year in which it was collected.
Illustrated here are a scalloped Iznik tile, c1565 and a square Iznik tile c1575. Both are featured in Cornucopia’s preview of the museum inauguration (See Connoisseur 29 in Cornucopia 29).
The museum also has a specialist library for Islamic art as well as regular exhibitions that often draw on the city’s as yet homeless Orientalist Museum.
With an introduction to the book by Godfrey Goodwin
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