[AUDIO LOGO] ELLEN AVRIL: Good evening. My name is Ellen Avril. I'm the chief curator and the Judith Stoikov curator of Asian art. Welcome to tonight's Stoikov lecture on Asian art. Supported by an endowment established by Dr. Judith Stoikov, Cornell class of 1963, the Johnson Museum has, for more than 10 years, been inviting distinguished scholars of Asian art to Cornell University to deliver a public lecture at the museum and to meet with students in a class looking closely at works of art from the museum's collection.
We are deeply grateful to Judith, who is a member of the museum's advisory council, for the many ways that her tremendous generosity has benefited the Johnson Museum's Asian art collection, exhibitions, and programs. Special thanks go, as well, to the Cornell South Asia Program and Department of History of Art for their co-sponsorship of museum programs such as this.
Tonight's lecture is being presented by Navina Najat Haidar, the Nasser Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah curator in charge of the Department of Islamic Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. After completing her undergraduate degree at St. Stephen's College, Delhi University, Navina Haidar studied at Oxford University where she earned her doctorate in art history, focusing on 18th-century Indian paintings from Kushingar.
At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she served as coordinating curator for the renovated and expanded Galleries for Islamic Art, which opened in 2011. Among the acclaimed exhibitions she has curated at the Met are Workshop and Legacy, Stanley William Hayter, Krishna Reddy, Zarina Hashmi, in 2016, Sultans of Deccan India, 1500 to 1700, Opulence and Fantasy in 2015, and Treasures from India, Gems and Jewels in the Al Thani Collection in 2014.
Her catalog, Sultans of Deccan India, co-authored with Markia Sardar, won The Foreword Review's Book of the Year Award. In recognition of her expertise and achievements, in 2020, Dr. Haidar was appointed to lead the Met's Department of Islamic Art. Future projects she's working on include an exhibition on the age of the Mughal emperor Jahangir and a forthcoming book on The Jali, Pierced Window Screen in Islamic architecture.
For her talk tonight, she will introduce us to the spaces, objects, and ideas behind the Islamic art galleries at the Met and give us a preview of exciting new directions ahead. Please give a warm welcome to Navina Haidar.
NAVINA HAIDAR: Thank you so much. It's a great pleasure to be here. And I thank colleagues at Cornell for this very wonderful invitation to be able to speak to all of you tonight about the work that we're doing in New York at the Metropolitan Museum in the Islamic department where I currently serve as the curator in charge.
So I'm going to be trying to transport you through all kinds of technological means, from projection to other things that I have planned, to a location far from here where I hope the power and beauty and importance of the collections somehow comes across this space, the spatial distance, and some of the ideas that we've been exploring as we've been working with the collection in those spaces.
So without any further ado, I'll plunge in and introduce you to the Arts of Islam at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And the title, Art of Islam, is one of those arrangements of words that has been incredibly deeply discussed and changes from time to time. Is it Islamic art? Is it arts of Islam? Should Islam be mentioned or not be mentioned at all when you're talking about this part of Asia and the wider world related to it, et cetera.
A lot of those discussions are backed up by money and threats and so on. So part of the life of a curator is to diplomatically maneuver between all of these forces and arrive at a place where we, in the end, do a meaningful service to the collection and provide an interesting and truthful way of talking about them and presenting those materials.
So the evolution of the Islamic department and the idea of the Arts of Islam, or Islamic Art at the Met, mirrors the development and the growth of the museum itself over many decades. You can see, in these two slides, how the Metropolitan Museum has grown from a relatively-- something that looks like a grand cottage at the edge of what became Central Park to this absolutely fantastic, multi-block long facade with lots and lots of spaces behind it, in which over 2 million works of art are housed.
So in that space, works of art in our department that are now called the Arts of Islam in the Islamic department, have been part of the growth of the museum from the very beginning. The Moore Collection, which is one of the foundational collections of the museum, already had many enameled and gilded mosque lamps from the Mamluk period, as you can see in the display from 1907.
And in 1912, this Persian room was established, which actually mixed up Persian, Indian, and other kinds of Middle-Eastern objects all under one space under one rubric. But to me, looking at those pictures, those the objects in those rooms are old friends that are still with us in our rooms. The rooms have changed. The objects are fixed points so far, at least in the museum. Let's see if the forces of restitution get to the collection or not. That's the next big challenge.
But this whole evolving landscape has also been mirrored in the kinds of special exhibitions that the museum does. So back in the day, they had this exhibition. I could have chosen one of many. But I love this particular one, Plant Form in Ornament Exhibition in 1933 where they actually had living plants in the installation. And they were able to show Iznik ceramics, as you see on the right, with fresh carnations and other types of fresh flowers.
Of course, since then, museums have seen the rise of conservation science. And conservation science has firmly banned living plants, with good reason, from the gallery spaces. But again, every now and then, they do concede and we do do something interesting with different types of media because it's important to remember that, at least when we're thinking about the Islamic world and the Indian courts and North Africa and places that we represent in our collection, that many of these objects were created in outdoor settings, were enjoyed in outdoor settings, that life was not an air-conditioned white space.
And to bring the spirit and the inspiration to these objects, it's important to break the rules every now and then. So that's-- you're looking at a big, radical revolutionary here who's tried to bring an orange blossom and Jasmine into a Moroccan court because if you're in Morocco, the aesthetic experience of experiencing those spaces with those fragrances and so on. So anyway, we're looking at orange-blossom perfume and essence and things to try and mimic that.
So this was the old days, when objects from the Middle East and South Asia and North Africa primarily were installed in all sorts of ways and were evolving into new categories. But then along came 1963, when our department was actually formed as a very small department related to the ancient Near-Eastern department.
They were parts of the same larger entity. And then a big breakthrough in 1975, when under the guidance of Professor Richard Ettinghausen, who shared a position at Princeton University, at NYU, and at the Met-- he was incredibly influential on many institutions on the East Coast-- under his guidance, the Met created what was then the world's biggest and grandest galleries for Islamic art.
They were boldly titled, Islamic Art. And they occupied half a wing of a museum-- of the upper section of the museum. And these gallery spaces were considered revolutionary at the time. When we look at them today, they feel very '70s. They are very '70s.
But at the time, those kinds of-- firstly, the idea of shaping the room into a geometric profile was very, very non-Western. It actually-- if you can see that there's Western-- the original detailing of the room, the curved ceiling and some of the kind of ornamental detail, is now obscured by this inset of geometric forms. The cases were half hexagons or full hexagons.
And so the whole spatial experience was geometric, essentially, trying to pick up on the language of what was one of the great defining features at the time, as was defined of the Arts of Islam. And then also, just the fact that you were able to see these magnificent carpets on panels that you could move around and change, this was all very, very cutting edge at the time.
And also, one of the things that they did at the time, that we've kept in the new galleries, is to-- not to-- present the paintings on an angle with seating, so that you're moving away from again, the European style of putting them in a frame and putting them on the wall, recognizing that these are very small and detailed paintings, and also originally parts of books. So all of these new ideas were born in 1975.
And it was the oil boom. It was way before 9/11. There was a great excitement and positive energy around the idea of Islam and the legitimacy of presenting the art of the Middle East, of mostly-Northern India and a little bit of Deccan India and North Africa-- primarily, that was the landscape-- under this nomenclature.
So that was 1975. When I joined the museum in about 2000, one of the first things I was told is that we're going to be taking down that old installation and putting together a new installation. And the next 10 years went in that activity. We opened the new galleries in 2011.
What happened in between was the very-devastating attack on New York City on September the 11th, 2001, and the work that we did had to be done in the aftermath of those attacks, and the effect that it had on the city of New York and on the psyche of the local people and on the life of institutions and on so much more, obviously, ultimately, the world beyond.
So it was a very deep responsibility. And we had to rethink everything. We had to look at our scholarship and our audiences in new ways. We could no longer take it for granted that people wanted to-- we could no longer take it for granted that people were positively disposed. Let's put it that way. They were full of questions.
And what I'm really impressed and proud of the New Yorkers that I encountered is that they all wanted to see an Islamic department, strong, filled with good information, to play a positive role at a very important moment in history. And the museum backed us also to the max.
That doesn't mean we were relieved of political pressure. We had a lot of political pressure. But we somehow survived it. And we also had a lot of people who believed in us and wanted us to do something incredible. So all those years of hard work-- and that's a story in itself-- but the result in the end was a greatly-expanded Islamic gallery that you see this three-dimensional view that was actually put together by The New York Times when they reviewed the galleries.
And they said some wonderful things, most especially that these galleries freed us all from the limitations of essentialist thinking because they were so big and because they offered so many different viewpoints. And what you see here is the second floor of the museum. And let me see if this pointer works. Right.
So this is the Islamic inner courtyard, inner doughnut And then out-- these higher-ceilings line of galleries out there, a very large space. Down below us are the Romans, the Roman court. They're very irritated to have the Muslims looking down at them from lofty heights. But that's what history has decreed. And so that's our very good position.
But what this whole area that you see here was actually reclaimed office space, which allowed this circular route to come about. The offices were, in that time, just built in that area because they didn't have space. But since then, they've worked out how to do deep drilling and other kinds of things. And so offices are located in other places now, giving back this precious gallery space to the displays.
But what a circular space does is that it forces you to think in a circular way. It forces you to move away from the idea of a linear narrative, a single point of view, one way of doing things and experiencing things. We know that anyway, as museum people, that even if you put a line of objects in a straight line, on two lines of a room, people may not walk exactly the way you want. And they may wander. And they may come back. And they may skip over things.
So you can't force things on people when you're dealing with real objects in real space. You have to think in a different way and imagine how arguments and points of view work from multiple viewpoints. So what we did, really, is to take advantage of that as much as we could and to open up three entrances into the space, and to create one major narrative which offers you the traditional story of Islamic art in that it starts in the seventh century and expands.
We follow the expansion of Islam eastward and westward and that one great route into from the seventh century Arabia all the way to 19th-century or 20th-century India. But if you were to walk in different directions, you would experience individual galleries by topics and moments in chronologies that work in different ways, really more a sense of region. So we balance the idea of a chronology with region and lots of diversity. We celebrated the diversity as much as we could.
So now in order-- it's very hard. I tried to think of a way that would give you a little bit of the feeling of our galleries. And I'm happy to be able to share very short little walk through the galleries to music that was composed and performed recorded by Yo-Yo Ma, who was very inspired by what he saw and did something just beautiful for our Instagram. So I'm going to play that for you. It's just very short. But--
[MUSIC - YO-YO MA]
NAVINA HAIDAR: Oops. OK, thank you. So I hope you enjoyed that. Just gives you a little flavor of what it feels like to walk through the spaces, which even if I say so, there's the spaces themselves with those objects in there, it's quite majestic, the whole thing. And it's also very large and spacious.
So now I'm going to give you a little sense-- that was what we created in 2011. That was very well received, by and large, by most people. Now it's the 10th anniversary of that installation. Time has really flown. We've had maybe 3, 4, or 5 million people, impossible to count, lots of millions of people. And lots of amazing things have happened in the galleries.
We've welcomed world leaders. Have welcomed Benjamin Netanyahu and Ahmadinejad on the same day, for example. That was a day to remember. We've had marriage proposals. Somebody who got very inspired brought his girlfriend and she said yes. And it all was-- the setting had to be the Islamic galleries.
We've had, of course, Muslim community members. We've had schoolchildren. We've had visitors from around the world. It's been quite an amazing, diverse set of people who've visited. But there have been questions as well. And one of the questions, and it's not just one that's been posed by our visitors, one that we have ourselves, is that if we limit ourselves, as we have, to the central-Islamic lands, that doesn't really reflect Islam in the world today because the greatest number of Muslims is outside the central-Islamic lands in sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia.
We also have Muslim communities who are under deep stress, whose heritage and story does not appear because they're outside the circle. If you think of people in Western China or-- and globally, anywhere, who are under pressure because of their identity, because of the kind of prejudices that we are always trying to fight, ignorance, prejudice, that battle always goes on. But we have to do right by everybody. And we still have a way to go before.
So we decided to face up to that challenge in the next iteration of the galleries and to try and find ways to be more inclusive of all the underrepresented traditions, and to do ourselves the intellectual challenge of taking away the idea of temporal and spatial limits on the idea of Islam, and see what does that look like in a gallery, meaning it's a global tradition from covering to the present day. How would we engage with that? And that would also include, of course, contemporary artists.
So this is our entrance gallery that you might have glimpsed. And normally it was, in the past, a place where we presented masterpieces of the collections, just to get you excited and to want to go on. But now we've re framed it as a global view of Islam because what we decided to do was to bring these questions and these new positions right up front so that you really enter the Islamic world, not in the seventh century but through today, through the vibrancy of today's Muslim communities and forms of art and identities and underrepresented traditions. And we go into the historical past from there.
So for example, we've made some new acquisitions in very-underrepresented areas. What you're looking at is at two of the new things that we've acquired. Above are two wonderful, woven hats, headdresses. They're from South Sulawesi, made in the 19th century for Buginese noblemen who would have possibly worn the black one before performing the pilgrimage of Hajj, and then the white one after returning from that pilgrimage.
And these are known. Other museums have them. But the Met was able to get the ones with the most gold, which is the sign of the greatest kind of rank and quality. And also, they are exquisitely woven. The fibers might even be orchid fibers. And then on the black one, very subtly in the gold you can sort of see Kufi calligraphy which spells out the name of the prophet.
And then down below, you see we have made a recent acquisition of a 19th-century Quran, which is from West Africa, either the Nigeria-- I think it's thought to be either Nigeria or Chad. It's a very strong, strong piece. And it's got this decorative page at the end, which has a strong image that you see. It's got its binding complete. And the pages are actually unsewn. So it's a free, unstitched manuscript, if you like.
And you can see, in the case, how we've presented it along with the Kufic pages of the past because the style of calligraphy that you see in this manuscript is somewhat Kufic. The main scholarship on this kind of material is being done in France. We first thought it was a kind of a Maghrebi script. But we've been informed. And we've been in touch with scholars who say it's really more-- it's much more even interesting than Maghrebi. Maghrebi would have been interesting already because you would have seen the great impact of Al-Andalus, let's say, on West Africa and that sort of-- and vise versa. The kind of--
But in fact, according to our colleagues, this kind of calligraphy is a form of Kufic which actually is a memory, and a very ancient memory of a Baghdadi, an Abbasid-period style, which has somehow been preserved in this scriptorium tradition in West Africa. So it looks really interesting to pose these questions when we put it in the case with all the other well-known examples of Kufic.
You have the Blue Quran page, which is up there. You have the Tashkent Quran, which is from the eighth century, thought to be one of the-- it was thought, in fact, to be the earliest Quran when it was first discovered by the Russians. Now not, but still a very early page. And so it's in great company.
And I think that's really very important for us because we don't want to do anything because it's tokenistic or in any way emblematic or representative. We want to do things because we follow the story of history. And everything has its place in the historical tradition. And so nothing is done without a proper context around it. That's very, very important to us because the pressure on museums is to be representative of things rather than correctly aligning things.
So anyway, now on the contemporary, we are working with a few extraordinary artists. The world of contemporary art from the Islamic world is huge. Firstly, it's not the Islamic world. It's the whole world. It could be any artist, anywhere, who chooses or is in some way related to the traditions of Islam. So where do you go? How do you approach it? And how are we different from what the contemporary art department would do?
So our philosophy so far is to work with just artists who frankly-- we would just-- whose work speaks to us. It's not a very inflexible approach. We like to work with two-dimensional materials. We like to work-- we're very interested in printmaking and in photography in particular.
Those things carry on in some ways. And they do useful things for us like portray places that we aren't able to because architecture is missing in every department. And it's a different approach.
That's where we're starting. We may develop in other areas. We do show some sculptural works. But I guess we're really sticking close to the spirit of the book arts and the two-dimensional arts as a place for us to start.
So we're working closely with this wonderful print maker whose-- I think his work might be here. Maybe you have one in the collection-- Mohammed Omer Khalil. He's now 85. We've known him as a friend of our departments for a long time, admired his work for a long time. And we're working to get his collection, which is at the Met. And we will be showing it in our entrance gallery. Now I'm going to show you in a minute where we'll be showing it.
But Mohammed is one of those artists who is incredible with the color black. And it was pointed out-- and he's not very well known. He's not one of these people who you'll come across. He's a kind of rare gem that we have seized upon. But one or two times that he's been reviewed by people who really understand what he's able to do with his printmaking technique, he is so extraordinary with the color black.
He layers black upon black upon black until the black actually turns into light because black has so many shades of density and darkness about it that when you layer it in a certain way, what you think of as black really turns into brightness. It's an incredible technique. And with this mastery of a very-limited palette, he creates images like the one that you see, of his hometown, and which allows us to also, again, engage in underrepresented places. How else do we-- what would be-- what a wonderful way to engage with a site in Africa, in Sudan.
We also have other contemporary artists, people working in calligraphy, for example. Again, we're interested in artists who in some way relate to our existing collections. So my colleagues are much more schooled in this than I am. So they have chosen the artist Pilaram's calligraphy that you see. And Walid Sitti's tower drawing, which reflects the minarets that we see in Islamic architecture.
Now the crucial thing with all of this material, and why we're restricting ourselves to two dimensions for the moment, is because to me, as a curator, where you place art, the art of curating, is how you place and present, how you juxtapose things so that they have an impact on you. And it's not just one piece here, one piece-- where you put it could be the most-important spot that could completely be the portal through which you experience everything else.
And that's what we were thinking because one of the things we're doing is to change the main entrance text panel and the introduction to the entire galleries, and redo it so that there is a spot, right next to the main text, for a contemporary work or a work in photography. So you will read that text and see that image together. And those will really guide you into this heritage of the past.
That took a lot of figuring out, lots of arguments inside the museum as to, why do you need a new text panel again? Why can't you hang the thing on the empty wall next door? And we had to say because this has got to be done this way. And of course, we've also changed the wording of the text panel, which is the other crucial thing.
When we opened our galleries in 2011, we were obliged to go with a geographical nomenclature which didn't mention the word Islam. So there was-- why were all these places together was not clearly spelt out. So now we're moving away from that to really trying to say the Arts of Islam, which opens up the whole world.
But also we do explain in that text that not all countries, all places, that are Muslim today or were Muslim in the past or however you define that identity, not everything about them is to do with the traditions of Islam. We have to both secure the traditions of Islam and liberate whole societies from too much of a singular point of view. So we try to balance it too.
That text was written, like haiku poetry, about 200-- 2,000 edits and lots of people. And so I cannot express in my words even how tough it was to arrive at that text. And we finally came to a position where we can balance the idea of absolutely committing to Islam.
That's what we're doing in these galleries. We are committing to the idea of Islam as a visual culture. And yet we are not saying that everything that was produced in Iran in the 17th century is related to the faith and traditions of Islam.
You can have Jewish tile work, for example, which you do. You can have a pair of socks that were embroidered and have absolutely nothing to do with. But we must bring out the majesty of what we're doing by committing to it. So that was a big, actually, fight. But I won't go into that right now.
I want you to see the before and after. This is the old text panel which says, "Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and later, South Asia." And we still have those places listed in other places so that you know where you are. We haven't obviously gotten rid of the geography. The new text panel says, "Arts of Islam," not Islamic Art, which could be thought of as a misnomer, but Arts of Islam, meaning arts of Islam in these places and beyond until today.
You had to do that to be able. And crucially-- I'm sorry. Actually, sorry. Crucially, you've got that panel down below on which we will be able to put either Mohammed's prints or photography or whatever we want that actually works with the text very well to be able to open up the arts of Islam today and everywhere.
So I hope that works I'm sure there'll be revisions to it in the future. But that's where we've landed at the moment. OK, so now I'm going to take you on a very quick route of what the galleries are looking like and some of the other new things that we've done, apart from this idea of a global Islam right in the beginning, contemporary Islam right in the beginning, we're now going into the historical past. And we are offering you many wonderful things.
We follow the eastward route of the Umayyads, the first dynasty of Islam as they had two massive successes militaristically. One was to-- well, of course, the word, "conquer" is now very problematic. So we have to use the Arabic word [SPEAKING ARABIC] instead. I'm just joking. But in fact, the Arabic word is more about the opening where it is-- that's how they defined it.
By using the English word "conquest," it's-- I don't want to split hairs here but two great empires fell under this new movement, the Sasanians in the East, what was left of the Byzantines in Syria and Egypt, and in the Umayyad period, the Umayyad period then became a melting pot of absorbing all these traditions of late antiquity into a kind of emerging visual language of the Muslim world. And those conquests now have connected Spain to India by 711.
So you had this melting pot in the Umayyad period, which leads-- which you can see, for example, in works of art such as this one, where you have an amazing wooden panel which actually, people are still figuring out its function. It's one of six such inlaid and overlaid panels of wood with ivory and bone decoration.
And you can see that it has a classical architectural form, almost. It looks like a Roman-period floor mosaic right in the middle with the little Hellenistic vines on that little disk, classical arches with winged capitals, which looked like they could be sort of Sasanian.
But when you look closer to the actual elements in the design, you can actually see that these patterns that are within the arches look like textile. And one of them looks very much like ikat textile. I love pointing this out, this one here. And in our collection we have a few examples of ikats from Yemen from the 9th century, quite beautifully preserved, and this wonderful technique where you dye the threads before you weave the design. So the design is absolutely woven into the DNA of the textile.
And you can see that the color goes into the fringes. And that's how you can see the dyed threads. So we have treasures like this and we're able to juxtapose them next to each other.
Moving on, the Abbasid revolution displaces the Umayyads in 750. And then you have a kind of emergence, according to the scholarship, of a much more of a unified style that really characterizes the architecture in the great capitals of Samarra and Baghdad.
And the so-called beveled style is something that you see in these great architectural elements here, the capitals and even the small fragments that were excavated. And we've done more of that in this area. We've worked-- expanded that.
We have an archaeological section where the museum actually conducted excavations in Iran in the 1930s. And among the things that were excavated is, in fact, the first Sword of Islam. That mangy-looking tooth pick up there, that's the sword. That is the great, conquering sword of Islam.
And that actually is a great treasure, though. It's a central-Asian type of sword, a short, straight sword with certain type of gilt fittings. And under the pressure of the excavation, the wood and the iron, the iron blade with the wooden scabbard practically fused together. It's quite hard to even see them separated. But it's a remarkable thing. And it's dateable because it comes from that archaeological excavation in Sabz Pushan and Nishapur area.
And all of these areas, this whole world, was under the control of the Abbasids nominally, because the Abbasids lasted until 1258 when they themselves were displaced by the Mongols. But this world that unfolded in Iran and Central Asia is a hugely-diverse world, nominally under the Abbasids, but with great territories of semi-independent control. Under the Seljuks, the [? Burids, ?] the [? Ghaznavids, ?] all of these great dynasties. And you have here, a reconstruction from that site of a 10th-century room from Nishapur.
And it's funny because in our new installation, we were much more showman than the old. They had this room in the old days, in the '70s. But it had these very small little black-and-white pictures of the site itself. And we said, why not blow one of those pictures up really big so that you can actually see this room as it was in the site, as you can see, and how, panel four panel, it's been transported here, and how it's been arranged, and how its original context looks because there's not a tree in that barren landscape.
And the decoration on these panels is so fertile, vegetal, it actually stimulates a whole conversation about, even if that's how the landscape looked when the excavations were done in the 1930s, what was the climactic environment back in the 12th century-- 10th to the 12th century, when this site is dateable to. Was it this barren?
So very interesting. Brings you into conversation with other kinds of sciences. And you do that really. But when you look at the evidence again and you blow it-- you take advantage of modern technology to do these great big scans and presentations.
Another-- from Medieval Iran in Central Asia where we were always worried about this kind of material because we thought, who's going to know anything about medieval Iran and Central Asia, today's audiences, et cetera? Actually, they were very interested. And it made you realize how the medieval world, especially the medieval Muslim world and the medieval non-Western world, is very remote.
It's much more remote than the ancient world because popular culture has somehow kept the ancients alive. The medieval world, it feels so-- it's so enigmatic. And I think that was a big success for us because people actually genuinely didn't know what to expect. And when they came in and they saw these fantastic objects, they were totally moved. And especially the young people, the children.
So the feline incense burning burner that you see there is from the late 1100s. And it's a great piece of Seljuk art. And it's apparently a kind of a mountain feline. That is a real thing. It's got these flat whiskers and these tall ears and certain kind of look. We had some experts come and define it.
But of course, there was a huge contest about it as well because one of the metalwork experts in our field denounced it as a fake. And so there was tremendous anguish about this, like is this a great masterpiece in a collection that deserves to be out there-- without a hood over it, by the way, because that was a big-- so that we can get excited? And do we want to believe all these incredible inscriptions on it? Or have we been duped?
So a very interesting investigation was launched by our conservation science department. So this is an incense burner. You can unscrew the neck and put incense into the body. And it would have emerged from all the holes that are all over the body. And it would have been, actually, a very alive-- lively kind of an art object.
Anyway, they investigated in the pores, at the very bottom, the remains-- the debris of the original incense. They found some absolutely tiny crumbs of original incense. And they were able to date that and come to the conclusion that it was an authentic piece because the incense was at least 500 years old. So that was just a kind of fun thing to do.
And then also on the screen, you see what is supposedly the world's earliest complete chess set which also comes from this excavation in Nishapur. It shows the game of chess as it was before it transformed into the European-style chess, as you know. So we don't have a queen. We have a vizier or prime minister. We don't have a bishop. We have a [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] or an elephant, which is very abstract over these two tusks.
And we don't have a black-and-white set either because it hasn't quite reached-- you do have individual pieces in ivory that are older than this. But as I said, this has been done in molds. It's been created in a molded-ceramic tradition and glazed with opposite. But really, it became-- I think access to African ivory and jet was the crucial factor that gave us a black-and-white set. And that comes slightly more on the Western side of things, maybe when it reached Spain, the game.
We then have another section that connects up with European Orientalism. And this was a very, very interesting connection to make because well, we are in touch with all of our sister educational institutions. We had a whole generation of Columbia University students who worked with Edward Said after-- in the wake of his important book, Orientalism.
And then we had several groups after that who were re looking at all of those ideas. And we were actually able to open up this physical connection. So you can walk from one gallery, one set of materials, to another and really ask ourselves about the construction of images in the context of colonial power, image making, all the questions that have been raised with this kind of material.
And frankly, I think we did a big favor to the orientalists because normally, when the tourists come to the Met and they want to see 19th-century pictures, they beat a very fast [? thing ?] to the Impressionists. They don't come running to look at the [? orientalists. ?] And now, suddenly, the Orientalists have become all the rage because you get you can sort of-- so yeah.
OK, so now we are in the post-Mongol age. That whole medieval world is given way to a new order. And again, we see the meeting. And by the way, excuse my rapid essentializations of history and everything. I'm just trying to give you the flavor of each space and the kind of art.
But you certainly see, let's say, the meeting, or the renewed meeting of China and the Middle East-- of China and Islam in the Middle East-- giving rise to new types of artistic expressions, great deal of book arts, of course, the circulation of paper, the illustration of many important historical texts.
I looked at something today with the students here. And we actually have images from what would be the earliest Shahnameh illustrations, which have been attributed to about the 1330s. And then going on from there, we have a number of historical manuscripts of the Timurid period that are on view, poetic manuscripts, [INAUDIBLE], Turkmen, [INAUDIBLE], Timurid these are all the groups that you see in this area with this Mihrab, which is one of a prayer niche, which is a great signature piece of art of our department.
And from this roughly 15th-century classical style, we give rise-- we have access to the last three empires of the Muslim world, the Ottomans, the Safavids, and the Mughals. So when you enter the Ottoman wing-- now it's another kind of a wing. We changed the style of it completely because one of the things that we had realized is that actually, our average visitor doesn't know the difference between Turkish, Persian, Arabic.
In the Middle East, it's like one kind of undifferentiated-- so we did bring out a lot of the differences in the textures, literally through introducing materials from those areas to do those galleries. So the red stone that you see actually comes from Turkey itself and so on. So we have three big rooms for the Ottoman Empire. This is a room that's dedicated to the art of the Ottomans at their patronage in Istanbul and the other centers like Iznik in Bursa that created stunning works for the courtly patronage.
And among the things that you see, wonderful things like this dragon drawing, which is one of my favorite pieces in the collection. And then next to it, you have a fabulous room for carpets and textiles from the wider Ottoman world, mostly carpets, shown under the Spanish ceiling that we have. And there you have-- I'm just showing you some of our top treasures so that you enjoy them.
This is the famous animal carpet of the 14th century of which only two other examples exist. It was identified as being late 14th century by its appearance in a Sienese painting of the early 15th century. And it shows this inventive design of animals within animals. If you meditate on it for a moment, you'll begin to see animals within animals.
And then on the other side, we have our famous Damascus room, which is the earliest dated room of its kind, from Ottoman Damascus. This is one of three such rooms that came into this country in the 1930s. The Doris Duke Foundation in Honolulu has part of a room. NYU has part of another room. And then the Met has.
And it's a long, complicated story because some of the pieces were interchanged. And bits of each room ended up in the other room. And there's enough material there for people to do a PhD if they ever want to decode the whole story of each one.
But it is a great treasure. People love it. And one of our great accomplishments was to be able to run water in the fountain that you see right in the front because believe me, running water in a gallery anywhere is a big challenge. Running water in a historical fountain is an even bigger challenge. And especially, we decided that the fountain was 300 years earlier than the room. We ended up dating the function to the Mamluk period.
And so it became-- the challenges just kept mounting. But then our director said something very influential. He said, let's face it, Navina. There's nothing as depressing as a dry fountain.
Once he said that, we were like, the director has spoken. We cannot depress ourselves and our audiences with a dry fountain. And so we moved-- all kinds of stories to get that fountain running. And it's a wonderful thing because it brings that whole room to life, to have the water and the tinkling water.
We work with other creatives to be able to do things with our collection constantly. I've been trying to point out some of the things we're doing, for example, with this group that you see here, a Syrian group of musicians. Our room actually has three sets of verses inscribed on the walls.
And this Syrian group, one of whom is a refugee from Syria, has actually composed music, set those verses to music. And we're going to do a wonderful program with him. We're going to make a little film and so on. So directly responding to the room.
And I was actually quite touched to think that both he and the room made their journey on all kinds of circumstances. And they met again at a museum here in the United States. So we must make that conversation happen. So that's something we're working on.
Here is the Safavid Empire with all of its glory. I'm not lingering very much on each of these because you can imagine how fabulous each thing is. We tend to-- basically we've arranged everything so that you go from Tabriz, which is the early capital, at one end, from about the 1520s, all the way to Isfahan at the other end.
And you actually end up in Tehran, where we have, as you can see, installed some new Qajar period works of art, and even getting into early 20th century on occasion. So we've expanded the range here. One of the things that was important for us to do, and we've continually kept that up, is to create a sense of dialogue with the objects in relationship to other objects because that's what the objects sometimes want.
So for example, you have, here, two [INAUDIBLE] that look very similar. One was made in China in the 15th century in the Ming period. And the other one was made in Iran in the 17th century.
And we have many, many examples of when we bring our works of art together to show how these systems were in touch with each other and how they were influencing each other in dialogue with each other. That's one of the signature things that you see happening all the time. We've almost finished our grand tour. I promise you. But had you gone the other way and followed the Umayyads westward-- you can do that from our main entrance-- you would enter eight centuries of Islam in Europe.
And that's right off the front gallery. And that was also deliberately done. We managed to make geography, history, and the actual lived experience work out quite well for us because again, it was a post-9/11 important thing to do because by placing Islamic Spain right in the front, it sort of came across Islam is not somebody else's culture.
It's part of the Western tradition as well. And there are other places where we discuss how that tradition ended in the 15th century in Spain. But you have extraordinary works of art here, which we have done in collaboration with the Hispanic Society of America.
That whole area leads into a Moroccan court, which was built by craftsmen from Fez. And I don't know if any of you were following them. They became kind of minor celebrities in New York at the time. The New York Times was literally following them around. They learned how to break dance in the subways.
And they were always trying to smoke illegally while building this thing, the courtyard. And there were so many hilarious stories about them. But they were absolutely brilliant at what they do. And seeing them practice and create this wonderful space was really a great lesson for us all, especially because-- one interesting little anecdote, twisted the whole thing.
We had told them that, unlike places in Morocco, we didn't want calligraphy to be included, big bands of calligraphy, because they're usually Quranic. And then they're on the wall. And then if somebody brushes against them or they get damaged, it can cause problems. It can cause offense. And it will require us to protect them in a certain way. And that will not look nice for the court.
So they looked at us completely amazed because for them, the central point of all of this decoration was the sacred word and calligraphy. And they couldn't understand why we would-- and we kept trying to explain to them-- this was actually our security department and our insurance department. And all the legalese around a museum. So we're trying to find a way around it.
So they said, don't worry. Don't worry. You don't want calligraphy? No calligraphy. Don't worry about it at all. And so we trusted them. Life went on.
And then when the court was unveiled, we couldn't believe what they'd done. There was no apparent bands of calligraphy. But every leaf that they had carved-- and there are 100,000 leaves-- every leaf that they carved, one way was a leaf and another way was Allah, the name of-- it was God. And not only that, they had practiced [INAUDIBLE], which is like the recitation, repetition, recitation, while they were executing this work.
And so we could see a real great parallel between what we had observed as they practiced, without realizing what they were doing, and then the kind of repetition of the name all through-- in this hidden form. So it's one of the many secrets of the Moroccan court. And it really humbled us because it made us realize that, for the artists and the artisans, they need their authentic place of inspiration.
For them-- this, for us, was like a moment of, what is Islamic art, without us having to define it with words. It was something that was deep, deep, and to be experienced by them and all of us at the time. Now the Moroccan court, you can see, has got-- is a space where we can also install temporary objects from time to time. We do poetry recitations.
At the moment, we actually have installed some works of art from Africa, in collaboration with our African department. We have a Hausa robe and a window from Timbuktu. And you can, of course, see the relationship stylistically in these works.
We end up in the Mughal gallery where we have two big rooms for Mughal, Asia, South Asia. One of them highlights the Mughal and Deccani courts with objects such as these, including the portrait of Aurangzeb, that you see is part of the Howard Hodgkin collection, which we have just-- fresh off the hot news-- we've just acquired. So this is 122 incredibly important paintings from India's courtly [INAUDIBLE].
And that's a very, very rare portrait of the Emperor Aurangzeb before he became emperor, the sixth Mughal emperor of the Mughals. He's a subedar, a governor, of the Deccan in this painting, in about 1635 or so.
And that's the inkwell, the Jade inkwell of his grandfather, Jahangir, which we have in the collection. And then in an adjoining room, we show Rajput, Pahari, company, school paintings. And that's because it's very important for us to, of course, represent later South Asia as a place and traditions of diversity, not just one thing or another. But the marvel of it is that all of this flourished together.
And especially with painting, artists were moving. Styles were moving. It's important to keep all of this material together. So again, it was a big effort to do it. And it was important not to go into the kind of reflections and narratives that are being manufactured today outside scholarly places, maybe even inside scholarly places. I don't-- I hope not. But not to reflect the political views of culture, but let the art speak in an authentic way.
So that's the tour of the galleries that I wanted to give you. But I wanted to end by introducing you to one of the new projects that we've been able to do, which really comes back to the idea of Islamic and the nature of Islamic art. One of the things that's come to me, after all these years of working, is you can never really get it right in words.
Words are wonderful things. We've invented them. And we've refined them. We use them all the time. But in a certain way, they can limit us because there are things that we understand that's not just to be defined, but to be experienced in a different way, even when you're in the world of words.
And so to really bring out the dimensions of Islam that is perhaps most central to the production of objects, the calligraphy, the calligraphic aspect of objects, is something that we have approached as a field in admiration for the calligraphic styles. But what has been ignored, largely, is the message itself.
What is this object actually saying to you? What's actually written here? How do you understand the message or the content of the words? And how do you explain that, when those words are written in medieval texts with medieval ideas in styles that are hard to decipher, in languages that only those people speak. And even then, we find-- mostly, our inscriptions are in Arabic and Persian.
But we've had lots of Arabic and Persian speakers who say we can't make heads or tails of this even though it's-- its a whole art, reading the art of epigraphy. OK, long-winded introduction to our media project, a new project that we have started, called The Speaking Object.
And this is taking advantage of technology, of building a very special partnership with extraordinary, talented people in Iran, for which I cannot tell you how many things had to be arranged, from visas to permissions to whatnot, in order to get Mohammad Farsimadan, who's one of the chief organizers of this project, who collaborated with us, and is a student of the dear, departed Abdullah Ghouchani, if any of you knew him. Abdullah passed away of COVID. And it was a great loss to our field. He was our epigrapher.
And what we've done is-- the aim of this is to select a few objects, and to find a way, through digital means, to outline each and every word so that you can understand how to read the inscription, to simultaneously pronounce it, and simultaneously offer translation, and to offer this technology in both videography, augmented reality, and virtual reality. So it's actually a very challenging and interesting thing. I'm going to try and show you the first one. I'm showing you just the videography.
So I'm going to show you just a few of the objects that we've selected for this treatment. And it's actually very, very difficult to do this because you need somebody who can read it, somebody who can digitize it, somebody who can pronounce it, somebody who can recite it, somebody who can put it onto the right media platform, and fundamentally, people who care about it and want this to happen because it could have been done and it hasn't. We're doing it for the first time now.
So the idea now is to show you that these objects speak and they say certain things. And you're going to be able to hear it for yourselves.
NAVINA HAIDAR: So we have just heard the majesty of the Quran recited, visualized, artistically composed in a way that really does justice to that object that comes from the medieval age. So one thing that's important to know is that there are different types of inscriptions, obviously.
So we've heard the Quran. But-- and we assume. People, of course, sometimes don't even realize that is calligraphy, like the shape of the arch is actually calligraphy. And it is the beginning of the phrase.
Now there are different types of inscriptions. So we heard something Quranic. Now we're going to hear something that's regal, that is the titles of Suleyman the Magnificent on his [INAUDIBLE]. And that's a totally different kind of inscription, very interesting and very, very difficult because it mixes up Turkish and Persian. Here we go for the Sultan's thing.
NAVINA HAIDAR: So you get the idea. It's still not launched and perfected, which is why those other things-- I'm literally giving you a sneak preview of this thing, which is going to be launched in about a month or so. And then all of these glitches will go away. But you're getting a sense of how different these voices are.
You heard a religious voice. You've now heard a regal kind of a voice. Now you're going to hear a very romantic one. Not romantic in a-- it's a Sufi romance which means you're really in love with God. But it comes across as a love letter to a beloved. And so that would be the pen box.
NAVINA HAIDAR: So now you can see, really, how the metaphors in the poetry work with the object itself. It is a pen box with pens and all the similes and metaphors about writing and ink wells and so on. So how limited our understanding of the object would be without being able to hear it speak.
We need those poetic verses to make sense of the object itself. And to think that it's been denied to us, unless you're a scholar who is willing to go through translation and go through [INAUDIBLE]. But this wonderful technology, once we get it to work absolutely perfectly, will really allow-- thank you so much.
I just have two more, little, very short ones, just to show you how important this is in its own way. Now as we deal with Islamic history and any kind of history, we're in the world of known texts most of the time. Most of our sources are texts. What about things that are said, that are not known?
Texts that don't exist as official texts, things like proverbs and superstitions and blessings and sentences that are spoken, slang, stuff that we don't think of as-- escapes the formality of a textual home, but appears, sometimes on an object.
We have a fascinating group of medieval ceramics which have proverbs proverbs which don't appear anywhere else. They're like books in themselves, one-sentence books with something incredibly interesting on them. And so this wonderful bowl is one of many bowls that has this amazing feature. So let's just hear some good advice from this bowl.
NAVINA HAIDAR: So planning before action. And that's just-- it makes us think about the context of that bowl all over again, where would it have been seen, how-- can we imagine that information being received, read? What do we learn about daily life, even, if we put that in a middle-class setting as opposed to quarterly setting, et cetera.
So I'm going to end by showing you one of the most magnificent ones. This is a beautiful little drawing done-- color drawing-- in Bijapur in this-- thank you-- in the 17th century. It is a throne verse from the Quran, formulated like a horse, in the shape of a horse. But only through the speaking-object method can you understand exactly how the inscription is laid out on this object, and how wonderful and magnificent it is when it actually speaks.
NAVINA HAIDAR: So Dr. Mohammad Farsimadan and his group are their partners in this. And they're all based in the University of Ardabil in Iran. So yeah, this was one of the great things. We still don't know what the horses legs say, if you noticed. We have a few mysteries still to solve.
But I hope, through this project, I've been able to share with you what some of the new things that we're doing. Getting something like this done is not just a technical exercise. It is a way to make a partnership with people across the other side of the world, between us and whom there have been so many walls erected. The triumph of getting a visa, getting one of these things done with the team in Ardabil is indescribable.
It makes us feel that all the work we are doing is so meaningful. And it's not just selfishly shared by-- enjoyed by the people who have it. But it's a bridge between different countries and cultures and people who can appreciate it in many different ways. That's our hope, at least. That's how we like to think of it.
So thank you for hearing me out today and for allowing me to present some of the things I have. It's been a wonderful evening for me. And I thank you very much for your attention. Come visit us soon. Thank you.
ELLEN AVRIL: Would you take some questions? Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Oh, hi. Thanks for the presentation. It's really amazing. And this [INAUDIBLE] [? master of ?] [? students ?] in Asian studies, actually. And the media you present this is just amazing. And it kind of remind me of Chinese calligraphy. And so my question is, when is the earliest objects that, can actually speak things, from your knowledge?
Because it just reminds of me that calligraphy became a thing in China at around the time when Chinese actually encounter with people from the West. And then when calligraphy was incorporated into paintings, that's around 11th century, actually. So that's the media and the whole-- using calligraphy to draw a horse thing, just reminded me of those things. And so I was curious about the dating.
NAVINA HAIDAR: So-- thank you so much. From the Islamic tradition, you begin to-- well, the earliest Qurans, you could apply this method to them. And just a straightforward calligraphy on a surface, which is the Holy Quran. When do objects start getting them? From the very beginning,
I think, in the sense you can see objects from, let's say, the 9th century or so, with calligraphy, [? Benedictory ?] calligraphy, like tiraz fragments, for example. Tiraz is a great class of Abbasid-period textiles that are very much traded and are very much all about the inscription.
You also, for example, have some amazing objects that speak in the first person at this period. So one of them is that-- in Spain, when the Muslims went to Spain, you have ivories, very rare ivories of the Umayyads in Spain. The Umayyads in Spain lasted a lot longer than the Umayyads in the East. They lasted till about the 10th century. And they produced some incredibly-fine ivory pieces.
One of them is a pyxis that has its domed lid and speaks to you in the first person, saying, in Arabic, I am shaped like the breast of a young woman. It's a very mysterious inscription in some ways. But it reminds you of things like the Albert Jewel, which is one of the famous English treasures, which also speaks to you-- in about the same period-- in the first person.
So there's a difference between when the object is speaking to you, referring to itself as a voice or speaking as a-- versus being a surface upon which other voice has been inscribed. I showed you a variety of things today. And you could see that effect. So it goes back to the very beginning of Islam, I would say. I'm sure that objects that don't survive that were created.
As soon as the prestige of the word-- because for Muslims, the Quran is the word of God. And there's no greater thing that you can do, as an artist, than inscribe the words of God in many beautiful ways and then maybe inform your entire material existence with the word of God on any part of your life, the vessels in your life, the clothes you wear, et cetera.
But when it comes to this technology, we have thought of applying-- it can be applied to hieroglyphics. It can be applied to cuneiform, to Chinese calligraphy. There's a lot of things. But why we want to keep ourselves the first is because in the Muslim world, the prestige of the word, it's a vanguard. The entire artistic impulse is so much geared and evolving from the idea of the word, the sacred word, that it really is up there. So we want to be the first horse to lead it.
And the word can follow but it's not going to be the same because hieroglyphics and cuneiform-- and I don't know about Chinese calligraphy-- it doesn't-- it's more on the level of being applied to surface as opposed to being part of the whole constitution of that object, if that makes sense-- in a very broad way. Yeah? So--
AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] I don't know the-- actually, I'm from China and a little bit familiar with the answers that she tried to asked because Islam broadcast to China around seventh century. And the earliest calligraphy in Chinese character, that we can see now, was from the 9th century in China, in Chinese character.
But now there are a lot, actually, current calligrapher, actually write Arabic words, actually Quranic words, by writing brush in a very-authentic Chinese way on a paper. So that means it's probably very related that the calligraphy today, in China, very related to the broadcast of Islam.
And at the time that the Islam just broadcast to China, in Fujian province was in seventh century, very similar to the prophet time. So that's a very interesting project. I read a lot of things. If you are interesting, we can just get in touch about Islamic arts in China also--
NAVINA HAIDAR: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: --especially like stone-carving calligraphy. And also, there are some other kind of arts, like a plaque, seal, and couplet. There are all authentic, Eastern, Chinese way to actually express a similar kind of idea that you just presented.
NAVINA HAIDAR: Thank you. Thank you.
AUDIENCE: A couple of questions. I don't want to dominate the questions. But a really easy one, I think, was Philippe de Montebello really behind the Islamic [INAUDIBLE]?
NAVINA HAIDAR: He was a director under the planning phase of it. And yes, he played a very, very important role in certain things. He connected us to the orientalists, for example, because from his bird's-eye view as a director, he knew all the other construction projects that were going on. So he made that connection.
He was the one who said that the fountain shouldn't be dry. And he had this--
NAVINA HAIDAR: Yeah, that's right. That was well detected. Yes, that was him. But then he retired. And the project was actually completed under Thomas Campbell. But Tom Cable had only been the director for about a year. There was like a year in between when there was no director. So it was a little bit in this transition period.
AUDIENCE: I went to the members opening of the wing. And you got me excited all over again. This new project that you're doing is quite amazing.
NAVINA HAIDAR: Thank you. Thank you.
AUDIENCE: And I wonder if I could ask another question. Is Henry Corbin-- you know Henry Corbin? He's a medieval Sufi scholar who [INAUDIBLE] Creative Imagination--
NAVINA HAIDAR: Mm-hmm.
AUDIENCE: --in the Sufism of Ibn Arabi.
NAVINA HAIDAR: Yes.
AUDIENCE: Is he entering this more scholarly academic world yet? He's always been on the fringes. And I grew up in the '50s--
NAVINA HAIDAR: Right. Well, yes. We are not in touch directly yet. And the whole Sufi side of things, it's a little ambiguous, how to engage, because there's so many Sufi orders that are practicing in New York, in the New York region today. There are many great masters.
Everything is Sufi in one sense because the mystical dimension pervades almost everything. And so just-- there are many ways in which we interact. But we haven't yet had the pleasure. But thank you for suggesting.
AUDIENCE: Yeah, he was very much into the medieval mysticism of Ibn Arabi.
NAVINA HAIDAR: Right.
AUDIENCE: He traveled to Morocco and then back to--
NAVINA HAIDAR: Ibn Arabi--
AUDIENCE: [? Persia. ?]
NAVINA HAIDAR: Yes. Yes, his tomb is in Syria, in Damascus.
AUDIENCE: Some of the descriptions that were being read in terms of spatial imagery, before and after, in front of and behind. Several things reminded me of something that Corbin would really get into and analyze. And also the architecture and the placement of reflecting pools--
NAVINA HAIDAR: Yes.
AUDIENCE: You know, et cetera. Running water would be very, very-- he was very interested in. [? So I'm just curious. ?]
NAVINA HAIDAR: Thank you. Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Thank you. I have two questions too. But the second one may disappear based on your answer to the first one.
NAVINA HAIDAR: OK.
AUDIENCE: So when you're looking at those speaking objects, is there only-- if it's a quranic verse, there's one way to read it. But are there objects with multiple things to be read, in which case, it's up to you to decide the order of the reading?
NAVINA HAIDAR: Yes. Yes. There is-- and in fact, you've picked up on one of the things that I'm not so thrilled about that, the first Mihrab, because the reader read the name of the maker before completing the Quran, you see? And I feel like that, in the hierarchy of everything, even though the words of the make up place quite high up and prominent, I can't believe that it was meant to be assimilated before you read the entirety of the-- so yeah.
AUDIENCE: And so my second question was, since in the first part of the presentation, you talked about the importance of the arrangement of the museum, whether you put it on a straight line or make it circular, it has a dramatic consequence on the perception of the art. So that happens on a micro level, on each of those objects, based on the order that you choose to vocalize things.
NAVINA HAIDAR: Yes.
AUDIENCE: So I was wondering what leads to that decision.
NAVINA HAIDAR: Well, it's a very difficult area of scholarship, to tell you the truth, because you need someone who knows-- the verses, for example, are not always easily found in a divan because they may not be in that same arrangement in a poet's divan. They may be that they've been arranged or chosen by the artist, or whoever designed it, in an irregular way. So you have to reconcile against whatever is known of the divan or wherever. That's one issue.
Then reading, where to start? Of course, that can be figured out. But yeah, you have to be correct about starting in the right place. And now there are these amazing databases of verses. And Professor Ghouchani used to-- just knew these databases. They have scanned words. And so I mean you can look for a word search and find any deviations in that arrangement from different sources.
But he's gone. And he's irreplaceable. And that's why I feel like one of the things we should be doing, as a department, is to cultivate more knowledge like that. We have somebody who knows poetry, knows epigraphy, knows Arabic and Persian, knows these databases, can put it all together to analyze whether we are doing the right thing or not, and have a conversation with somebody else who can actually challenge him on it.
This is asking for a lot. But we are working. That's exactly what we're trying to do with this new generation from Ardabil.
AUDIENCE: Thank you. Actually I have a third question. But I'll ask it later.
NAVINA HAIDAR: OK.
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Navina Najat Haidar is the Nasser Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah Curator in Charge of the Department of Islamic Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is currently marking ten years of its permanent galleries. This talk presents a visual introduction to the spaces, objects, and ideas that constitute the galleries, as well as new directions ahead.
Haidar organized the exhibitions “Workshop and Legacy: Stanley William Hayter, Krishna Reddy, Zarina Hashmi” (2016); “Sultans of Deccan India, 1500–1700: Opulence and Fantasy” (2015); and “Treasures from India: Gems and Jewels in the Al-Thani Collection” (2014) at the Met. She was involved in the planning of their permanent galleries for Islamic art, which opened in 2011, and is currently working on a series of new installations to mark their anniversary. Her future projects include an exhibition on the age of the Mughal emperor Jahangir, and a forthcoming book on the pierced window screen (‘jali’) in Islamic architecture.
The annual Stoikov Lecture on Asian Art at the Johnson Museum is funded by a generous gift from Judith Stoikov, Class of 1963, and is cosponsored this year by the Department of the History of Art and the Cornell South Asia Program.