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The Islamic Art Hoax

By Gabriel Thy • Art Criticism, Art Museum, Art Theory, Artist, Islamic Art • 1 Apr 2012


The Gist Of Islamic Art Today

Then why all the impetus, which started in earnest some almost a decade ago, for all the “Islamic Art” openings at prestigious museums, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the Victoria and Albert Museum in England?

The creation of departments of Islamic art at prestigious universities and museums? The support of prestigious foundations like Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art? Let’s not be coy. It is nothing but around stupid round of political correctness.

But they all live and work in the West and have made their careers in the mainstream international art scene, which means in Europe and the United States. Despite their Western positioning, they are routinely tagged as Islamic artists by an art world addicted to marketable categories.
The idea is that the kinder, gentler artistic side of Islam needs to be promoted to disabuse the hopelessly bigoted perception, held by various troglodyte crypto-neo-cons, that Islam is an aggressive, imperialist, expansionist, and repressive “religion.” But even at the start of the “Islamic Art” movement there were, as we shall see, art critics who doubted that Islam provided the inspiration or the continuity for collections of art from lands under Muslim control.

The push to credit Islam for so-called “Islamic Art” is beginning to look as feeble as the Obama administration’s mandate to the National Aeronautic and Space Administration to showcase the Arab contributions to space exploration.

Writing in 2004, the NYT art critic Souren Melikian had this to say about the ménage of “Islamic Art”:

“Refashioning the image of cultures you know precious little about to fit preconceived ideas that suit your purpose is not a good recipe in art history any more than it is in international relations. That is just about what the Western world has been doing for the last hundred years vis-à-vis what it calls “the Islamic world.””

In 2006, as regards contemporary “Islamic Art,” the art critic Holland Cotter, also of NYT, wrote:

By far the most prominent exhibition of contemporary art on the subject yet seen in New York opens today at the Museum of Modern Art. You would never guess that subject, though, from its title – “Without Boundary: Seventeen Ways of Looking” – in which the word Islam does not appear. All but three of the featured artists were born in some part of the so-called Islamic world: Algeria, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Palestine and Turkey.

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© 2012, Gabriel Thy. All rights reserved.

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