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22 April 2024

Treasures from a bygone era

By Staff Writer

(SAEED DAHLAH)         

For the first time in the region, the famed Khalili Islamic Art Collection has gone on display at the Emirates Palace hotel, Abu Dhabi.

Titled The Arts of Islam: Treasures from Nasser D Khalili Collection, the exhibition comprises more than 500 works of art, some never seen before. One of the most exceptional pieces includes a detailed panoramic watercolour of Makkah, painted in 1843 – the earliest known visual record of the holy city.

Organised by the Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC), the asset development arm of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), the exhibition presents both the religious and secular arts of Islam through various themes. These include the development of arts associated with the Holy Quran manuscripts, arts associated with pilgrimage and treasury objects, miniature paintings, carpets and textiles. Other themes focus on the talismanic use of the Holy Quran verses, science in the service of religion, equestrianism, falconry and interaction with Europe.

“This is an exhibition of international acclaim and its staging is in line with our ambition of establishing Abu Dhabi as a global cultural centre,” said Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman of ADTA, TDIC and the Abu Dhabi Authority For Culture and Heritage.

“This exhibition, and others to follow in the coming months and years, will assist in raising regional awareness about the fine arts.”

This is part of the celebrated Khalili Collection assembled since 1970 by the Iranian scholar, collector and benefactor, Professor Nasser D Khalili. The Khalili Family Trust asset comprises more than 20,000 works and is the world’s most comprehensive Islamic arts collection, dating from its seventh century beginnings until today.

“This collection plays a significant role in promoting greater understanding between people of different cultures and faiths, as well as increasing awareness among them of the rich contributions of Islamic cultures to world art,” said Khalili.

“It is highly appropriate that its first Middle East showing is in Abu Dhabi, which is internationally recognised as a strong proponent of arts.”

A fully illustrated catalogue, published in both Arabic and English, is available at the venue and a series of lectures and other educational programmes are also planned over the months. 

The display is part of a cycle of international temporary exhibitions, which are central to Abu Dhabi’s arts strategy of preparing its audience for the future developments on Saadiyat Island’s Cultural District.