Taswir – Pictorial Mappings of Islam and Modernity

A contemporary look at classic Islamic Art


The exhibition Taswir – Pictorial Mappings of Islam and Modernity, taking place starting from 5th November at Berlin´s museum Martin-Gropius-Bau, shows selected precious objects of classical Islamic art as well as significant works by 20th-century and contemporary artists, most of whom have an Islamic background.The 250-odd works on display offer a contemporary look at Islamic forms of visual expression. Laid out on an associative basis into 18 “theme rooms”, the exhibition provides avenue for encounters between East and West, classical and contemporary artworks, Islam and Modernism.


Over 50 contemporary artists from such places as Beirut, Cairo, Istanbul, Damascus,Teheran, Jerusalem, Paris, London and New York will be taking part in the exhibition. Theirwork will be displayed alongside classical works of Persian, Indian, Arab and Ottoman art. The current international art scene will be represented by such figures as Walid Raad, Parastou Forouhar, Mona Hatoum, Susan Hefuna, Rebecca Horn, Ali Kaaf, Wolfgang Laib, Sadegh Tirafkan, Timo Nasseri, Hale Tenger and Raqib Shaw.


Important national and international libraries and museums –such as the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg, the British Museum and British Library in London,the Bibliothèque nationale de France, or the Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon and the Museum of Islamic Art SMB – have made precious objects of Islamic art available as loans.The exhibition covers the three classical fields of Islamic art: Calligraphy, Ornament and Miniatures, whose unique and manifold forms will offer visitors a fascinating aesthetic experience. The word “taswir” in Arabic, Persian and Ottoman Turkish means roughly“portrayal, likeness, drawing, photograph”.


Despite widespread popular misconceptions,there can be no question of a ban on or absence of images in Islamic tradition. The attitudeto pictorial portrayals is ambivalent and has varied throughout history.The exhibition invites visitors to reconsider the practice of keeping “Orient” and “Occident” inwatertight compartments while subjecting the roots of the traditional European view of the“West” to critical scrutiny.

Taswir – Pictorial Mappings of Islam and Modernity

5 November to 18 January 2010

Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin

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