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Dallas Museum Hosts Rare Islamic Collection

The agreement will give the museum the right to lend pieces to other institutions and to make objects widely available to schola

Source : OnIslam & News Agencies / 07 Feb 2014

Celebrating the rich heritage of the Islamic culture, Dallas Museum of Art will host one of the largest and most important private holdings of Islamic art for the next 15 years.

“We are deeply grateful to the collection’s trustees for entrusting us with this unparalleled collection, which will enhance the Dallas Museum of Art’s (DMA) growing strengths in the area of Islamic art,” DMA director Maxwell Anderson said in a prepared statement cited by Dallas News on Monday, February 3.

Anderson was speaking about the Keir collection which has been collected over decades in Britain by Edmund de Unger, a Hungarian real-estate magnate who died in 2011.

According to a long-term renewable loan agreement, signed last Friday, the collection will go to Dallas for at least 15 years from next May.

The agreement will give the museum the right to lend pieces to other institutions and to make objects widely available to scholars.

The Keir collection “is recognized by scholars as one of the world’s most geographically and historically comprehensive, encompassing almost 2,000 works in a range of media that span 13 centuries of Islamic art-making,” Anderson said.

The rich Keir collection comprises 2,000 Islamic pieces, including ceramics, weaving and miniature paintings, textiles, carpets, lusterware, as well as the rare Fatimid-period rock crystal vessels from the 10th to the 12th centuries.

The precious collection presents a wide range of geographic territories from the western Mediterranean to South Asia.

The new collection will give Dallas, which has only a few dozen Islamic pieces, the third most important Islamic collection in the US, after the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries in Washington.

Placed for years at a mansion southwest London, the collection was designated to be secured the Museum of Islamic Art in Berlin.

Yet, the administration of Dallas Museum has convinced the trustees of the collection to place the collection in Texas where it will reserve high protection.

“They were looking for really a larger commitment for the whole collection and we could give them that,” Anderson was quoted by The News York Times.

Culture Bridge

The new heirs of the collection expressed pleasure that Islamic art collection will bridge the gap between cultures.

“We are pleased,” said Richard de Unger, the collector’s son.

“That my father’s collection is being transferred to the care of a museum whose commitment to fostering cross-cultural dialogue has made it a leader among its peers.

“Our late father believed that Islamic art and culture was the bridge between the Far East and the West.”

The process of handing the rich Islamic collection to Dallas was a result of the efforts of Sabiha Al Khemir, the museum's first senior adviser for Islamic art, who persuaded the collection's trustees.

Describing the collection, Al Khemir, who was the founding director of the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar, said, “There is a kind of mystique about it, a curiosity about it, because it is known but has not been seen or studied by many.” “I usually have problems with collectors — it’s about amassing, amassing,” Al Khemir said.

“But he had serious knowledge and serious joy in these things,” Al Khemir added, who met Unger once when she was a young scholar.

“You could see it in the glint of his eyes when he looked at them,” she added.


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