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New Light on Old Glories at the V&A

The Making of the Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art at the Victoria and Albert Museum
Rosemary Crill and Tim Stanley


For three years, the main Islamic Middle East gallery at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum was closed. It reopened in 2006 to spectacular effect. Here we present key aspects of a stunning permanent collection that can now be seen, literally, in a new light. Commentary by its curator, Tim Stanley. Gallery photographs by Fritz von der Schulenburg

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has one of the world’s great collections of Islamic art from the Middle East, and it is more than half a century since the pick of this collection was first displayed in a large hall near the main entrance. This space, now renamed the Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art, has been transformed into one of the museum’s most spectacular displays.

The key to the success of the new gallery has been the decision to lay the huge, beautiful and historically important Ardabil carpet on the floor in the centre of the hall and to design the rest of the once-gloomy room around it.

The carpet is protected by a canopy suspended just above head-height and at floor level by non-reflecting glass walls. It is therefore fully visible to visitors – particularly when the lights are on. To prevent fading, the lights are activated for only ten minutes on the hour and half hour, providing an unusual touch of drama to a gallery visit.

Cornucopia 36 for the full 10-page article

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Issue 36, 2006 A Beauty on the Bosphorus
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Other Highlights from Cornucopia 36
  • Divine Restoration

    By the mid-1990s the Zeyrek Camii was in a state of alarming decrepitude. Now that the Byzantine masterpiece has been rescued, what lessons have been learnt? For Robert Ousterhout, who was closely involved in the restoration, the old ways are always the best. Photographs by Jürgen Frank

  • Crimea

    The Crimean War of 1853–56 which ended 150 years ago this year [2006] now seems very remote. Why were Great Britain and France, in alliance with Ottoman Turkey, fighting Russia in the Black Sea? Norman Stone investigates the causes and reviews an exhibition of Crimean War memorabilia at the Sadberk Hanim Museum.

  • Heaven on a Plate

    This modern Turkish favourite is a descendant of şeker gurabiye, the biscuit served at 16th-century Ottoman feasts

Buy the issue
Issue 36, 2006 A Beauty on the Bosphorus
£12.00 / $15.64 / 517.63 TL
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