Aga Khan Museum brings artistic riches to Toronto
TORONTOThe Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, which is dedicated to presenting an overview of the artistic, intellectual and scientific contributions that Muslim civilizations have made to world heritage, is opening its doors to the public today, becoming the first of its kind in North America.
Bankrolled by Prince Karim Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of Ismaili Muslims, the museum features rare scriptures of the Quran from the seventh and eighth centuries.
At a preview last week, a piece of carved marble from 10th-century Spain was among the works that sparked particular interest.
There are fine collections of Islamic art in museums throughout Canada and the United States, but this is the first devoted entirely to such works when it welcomes visitors.
The museum’s permanent collection of over 1,000 objects includes masterpieces that reflect a broad range of artistic styles and materials. The portraits, textiles, miniatures, manuscripts, ceramics, tiles, medical texts, books and musical instruments represent more than 10 centuries of human history and a geographic area stretching from the Iberian Peninsula to China.
Designed by architect Fumihiko Maki, the museum shares a nearly 60,000-square-meter site with Toronto’s Ismaili Center, which was designed by architect Charles Correa. The surrounding landscaped park, designed by landscape architect Vladimir Djurovic, provides an exciting new green space for the city of Toronto.
“One of the lessons we have learned in recent years is that the world of Islam and the Western world need to work together much more effectively at building mutual understanding , especially as these cultures interact and intermingle more actively,” said the Aga Khan. “We hope that this museum will contribute to a better understanding of the peoples of Islam in all of their religious, ethnic, linguistic and social diversity.”
From their earliest origins, Muslim civilizations have been characterized by a remarkable diversity of geographies, languages, and cultures. Toronto – and Canada more generally – is internationally recognized for embracing such diversity. The city therefore provides an ideal home for an institution that strives to promote mutual understanding, respect and tolerance among the world’s cultures.
“The Aga Khan Museum has an international outlook,” said Henry Kim, director of the museum. “Home to a collection of astonishingly beautiful works of art, it will showcase the artistic creativity and achievements of Muslim civilizations from Spain to China. I think local and international visitors will be greatly surprised when they discover just how much the arts of Muslim civilizations are a part of our shared global cultural heritage.”
The museum also plans to host traveling exhibitions, concerts, as well as international conferences and seminars. “Canada is a model and global hub of diversity, ethnicity and inter-mingling cultures, so Toronto became the natural choice for us to set up a modern cultural center showcasing Muslim civilizations,” said Luis Monreal, head of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.
Since 2007, over 1 million people have experienced the splendor of the Aga Khan Museum Collection.
Many museums around the world, including the Sakıp Sabancı Museum in Istanbul, the Louvre in Paris, the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, the Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon, the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin, the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur and the Asian Civilizations Museum in Singapore have all hosted temporary exhibitions of major works of art from the Aga Khan Museum Collection.
The Aga Khan Museum has been established and developed by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, which is an agency of the Aga Khan Development Network. The Aga Khan Trust for Culture focuses on the physical, social, cultural and economic revitalization of communities in the developing world, but some of its programs, including the museum, span both the developed and developing worlds.