The basic equation for art history is access plus education equals appreciation and understanding. This new initiative brings full access through the internet and provides enough education to ensure appreciation and, more valuable for today’s cultural and political climate, understanding of Islamic culture. Sections on the different Islamic traditions, from the Umayyads to the Ottomans, cover the diversity of Islamic art and dispel misconceptions of Islam as a monolithic entitity. Other common misconceptions of Islam, such as its perceived misogyny and iconoclasm, are countered, respectively, by sections on women and figurative art.
The vast reach of Islamic culture and art becomes clear in sections on the Muslim West and the Normans in Sicily. Of course, sections on familiar aspects of Islamic art, such as calligraphy and geometric design, are covered as well.
I confess that I know little of Islamic art save from reading a few general histories, but the beauty of this style has always attracted me. An example of a mihrab, the niche in mosques that indicates the direction of Mecca, from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York appears above. This combination of spirituality and artistic beauty, something my own heritage of Catholicism also shares, resounds with me regardless of doctrine. The beautiful calligraphy of illuminated Qur’ans also resounds deeply with my inner book/art nerd.
I encourage everyone to just wander around this great new website and open yourself up to the beauty, history, and spirituality throughout.