Beautiful New Galleries Open This Weekend at MFAH, Showcasing the Art of Historical Islamic Lands

Beautiful New Galleries Open This Weekend at MFAH, Showcasing the Art of Historical Islamic Lands

Installation in the Arts of the Islamic Worlds Galleries (photo by Richard Barnes)

ON SUNDAY, MARCH 5, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston will open six new permanent galleries for Art of the Islamic Worlds. The new Hossein Afshar Galleries nearly double the previous square footage of the museum’s gallery space for Islamic art and are filled with hundreds of objects reflecting the range and beauty of art from across historical Islamic lands, including present-day Morocco, Spain, Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India.


The opening marks the 10th anniversary of the MFAH’s decade-long collaboration with the al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait, one of the most comprehensive collections of Islamic art in the world. On display are objects from the al-Sabah Collection, works from the MFAH’s holdings in Islamic art, and several Iranian masterworks from the 7th through 19th centuries now on long-term loan from the Afshar Collection, including paintings, ceramics, metalware, fabrics, and carpets.

Gallery 1 provides an introduction to recurring, centuries-old themes and visual motifs found in Islamic art, while Galleries 2 and 3 feature paintings from the pages of the Persian national epic, the Shahnama (Book of Kings), luster ceramics, and silk carpets from the pinnacle of Safavid carpet production.

Gallery 4 celebrates the sacred and secular arts of the book, with illuminated Qur’an manuscripts, illustrated histories and single-page paintings, as well as the calligrapher’s tools of the trade, including lacquer pen cases, inlaid scribes’ boxes, and ceramic sand shakers.

Gallery 5 explores the journey of Persian ceramics across trade routes to East Asia and China, and Gallery 6 is all about textiles and carpets — “woven treasures” which were integral to daily life and sacred and secular ceremonies.

“The new galleries are a culmination of the strong partnership between the museum, our dynamic Houston communities, and an extraordinary historical collection,” says Aimée Froom, curator of the arts of the Islamic worlds in a release. “Encompassing diverse cultures, ethnicities, languages, and regional traditions, this new presentation will convey the extraordinarily vibrant contributions and legacies of Islamic civilizations.”

Qur'an manuscript in Maghribi script

Shakhrisyabz Suzani

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