Press Release

VCUarts and VCUarts Qatar To Present Leading International Conference On Islamic Art

Event Date: 
2 November 2017
Richmond, VA

RETURNING TO RICHMOND NOV. 2–4, 2017 WITH OPENING REMARKS BY HER EXCELLENCY SHEIKHA AL MAYASSA BINT HAMAD BIN KHALIFA AL THANI

Taking place at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the 7th Biennial Hamad bin Khalifa Symposium on Islamic Art Will Convene Thought-Leaders from Across the Field

Twelve of the leading scholars, curators and artists of Islamic art and architecture from around the world will present their latest research at the seventh Biennial Hamad bin Khalifa Symposium on Islamic Art Nov. 2–4 in Richmond, Virginia, at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Hosted by the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts (VCUarts) and VCUarts Qatar in partnership with the Qatar Foundation, “Islamic Art: Past, Present and Future” will include a number of presentations addressing how Islamic art engages with contemporary politics, global capitalism, gender, religion and history, and how Western museums have approached collecting and curating the arts of the Islamic world.

“We are delighted to host the Hamad bin Khalifa symposium in Richmond this year,” said James Frazier, interim dean of VCUarts. “The symposium is widely considered the preeminent conference on Islamic art and culture, and we are thrilled that our students, faculty and broader community in Richmond will have the opportunity to directly participate in the rich, cross-cultural dialogue led by our Doha campus. The symposia support our mission to advance teaching and learning across the university, and we are grateful to the Qatar Foundation for supporting us in driving the international exchange of ideas and establishing a common ground through the arts.”

Opening remarks will be delivered by Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa Bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the chairperson of Qatar Museums, Doha Film Institute and Qatar Leadership, and a leading proponent of the arts as a catalyst for education, dialogue and exchange. She has become known internationally as the progressive force behind Qatar’s mission to be the Middle East's foremost destination for the arts and culture.

Following the opening remarks, a keynote address will be given by the contemporary artist Lalla Essaydi, whose work often combines Islamic calligraphy with representations of the female form to address the complex realities of Arab female identity from the unique perspective of intimate, personal experience. Essaydi’s work is held in the collections of a number of museums including the Louvre, the British Museum and the Harvard Art Museums.

Additional speakers at the upcoming Hamad bin Khalifa Symposium on Islamic Art include:

  • Mohammad al-Asad, an architect and architectural historian who has worked at Harvard, MIT and Princeton and founded the Center for the Study of the Built Environment, a think tank in Amman, Jordan, exploring the tension between local and Western architectural forms.
  • Her Royal Highness Princess Wijdan Al-Hashemi of Jordan, a pioneer in establishing important collections of contemporary art of the Islamic world. In Jordan she founded the Royal Society of Fine Arts (1979), the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts (1980), the Higher Institute of Islamic Art and Architecture at Al Al-Bait University, Jordan (1992), and the College of Arts and Design at the University of Jordan (2002).
  • Shahzia Sikander, a Pakistani-American artist and MacArthur Fellow best known for contemporizing the traditional Indo-Persian discipline of miniature painting and causing a transnational resurgence in the art form. Her work can be seen in museums around the world including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Whitney Museum of American Art and The Museum of Modern Art. Sikander is the recipient of many prestigious awards including a Medal of Art from the US State Department.
  • Nada Shabout, who is the founding president of the Association for Modern and Contemporary Art from the Arab World, Iran and Turkey. She was the consulting founding director of research at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha, and the editor-in-chief of the Mathaf Encyclopedia of Modern Art and the Arab World. She has curated exhibitions of modern Islamic art all over the world and is the director of the Contemporary Arab and Muslim Cultural Studies Initiative at the University of North Texas.

The Hamad Bin Khalifa Symposium on Islamic Art is organized by Sheila Blair and Jonathan Bloom who have shared the Hamad Bin Khalifa Endowed Chair of Islamic Art at Virginia Commonwealth University since its establishment in 2006.

“The Hamad bin Khalifa symposia are remarkable in bringing together leading experts who present their cutting-edge work in accessible ways,” Blair said. “This year’s speakers are particularly notable for their wide range of experiences from the practical to the theoretical.”

"When we started studying Islamic art in the 1970s the subject was deemed to end around 1700,” said Bloom. “Over the past decades the field has expanded both chronologically and geographically, and it seems particularly appropriate for this year’s symposium to explore the relationships between the past, present and future of the field.”

In its 13-year history, the symposium has been held in cities around the world that play significant roles in Islamic history. Past symposia were held in Richmond, Virginia (2004); Doha, Qatar (2007, 2011 and 2015); Córdoba, Spain (2009) and Palermo, Italy (2013).

In coordination with the symposium, up to 10 additional scholars of Islamic art from around the world will be awarded Hamad Bin Khalifa Travel Fellowships. The fellowships support travel expenses for these scholars to attend the symposium as well as invitations to special events at which they will have a chance to connect with symposium presenters.

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Courtesy of the Lalla Essaydi and of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

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