The Los Angeles County Museum of Art recently acquired a relatively well-preserved eighteenth-century Damascene reception room. In 1978, it had been dismantled intact from a soon-to-be demolished courtyard home in the al-Bahsa quarter of Damascus and exported to Beirut, Lebanon, and eventually London. More than thirty years later, the room arrived in Los Angeles packed in twenty-four crates. There were no photographs of the room in situ. Its painted wood panels, which comprise the heart of the room, were dirty, water-damaged, and showed signs of warping, and paint loss and fading. After eighteen months of intensive work, the restoration process is nearly complete; it revealed brilliant pinks, oranges, blues, and greens, allowing a rare glimpse of the original color palette, which helps bring to life this ornate interior. The short video clip is from a longer film documenting the conservation of the room; the voice is that of actor Julian Sands reading a translation of poet Nizar Qabbani’s beautiful verses on Damascus.
In recent years, the parameters of Islamic art have expanded to include contemporary works by artists from or with roots in the Middle East. Drawing inspiration from their own cultural traditions, these artists use techniques and incorporate imagery and ideas from earlier periods. LACMA has only recently begun to acquire such work within the context of its holdings of Islamic art, understanding that the ultimate success and relevance of this collection lies in building creative links between the past, present, and future. Islamic Art Now marks the first major installation of LACMA’s collection of contemporary art of the Middle East.
As the first of a two-part program, this exhibition features approximately 25 works by artists from Iran and the Arab world, such as Shirin Neshat, Susan Hefuna, Lalla Essaydi, Mitra Tabrizian, Mona Hatoum, Hassan Hajjaj, Wafaa Bilal, Barbad Golshiri, and Youssef Nabil, among others.
Susan Hefuna, Woman Behind Mashrabiya I, 1997, Purchased with funds provided by Ann Colgin and Joe Wender, Kelvin Davis, John and Carolyn Diemer, Andy Gordon and Carlo Brandon, Deborah McLeod, and David and Mary Solomon through the 2013 Collectors Committee, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, M.2013.125
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