Mona Hatoum: Turbulence.
Mona Hatoum: Turbulence brings to the forefront the diversity of Mona Hatoum’s work over the last 30 years. The exhibition’s premise builds on the artist’s topical work “Turbulence” (2012), a 4 x 4-meter square composed of thousands of glass marbles laid directly onto the floor. Placed exactly at the center of the exhibition, this installation lies at the heart of a linear but non-chronological trajectory whereby a number of unexpected juxtapositions echo the complexity through which the artist has managed to challenge, and at times disturb, our experience of the ordinary.
Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha, Qatar
February 7 through May 18.
Court and Craft: A Masterpiece from Northern Iraq.
Court and Craft: A Masterpiece from Northern Iraq examines one of the most rare and beautiful objects in the collection: a precious metalwork bag made in northern Iraq around 1300. Decorated with a courtly scene showing an enthroned couple at a banquet as well as musicians, hunters and revelers, it ranks as one of the finest pieces of Islamic inlaid metalwork in existence. The exhibition explores the origins, function and imagery of this little-known masterpiece, as well as the cultural context in which it was made, probably in Mosul. The exhibition also includes rare contemporary manuscripts in which similar bags are depicted, a life-size display evoking the court banqueting scene on the lid and related metal objects.
Courtauld Gallery, London
February 20 through May 18.
Nilima Sheikh: Each Night Put Kashmir in Your Dreams.
Nilima Sheikh: Each Night Put Kashmir in Your Dreams features nine banners painted by revered Indian-born artist Nilima Sheikh for a series focusing on the magical history and contentious present of Kashmir. Completed between 2003 and 2010, these scroll-like works, once scattered across India and Southeast Asia, have been brought together in Chicago alongside two additional works that Sheikh will create especially for this installation. The exhibition’s title is derived from a line in the poem “I See Kashmir from New Delhi at Midnight” by the Kashmiri–American poet Agha Shahid Ali. His work initially inspired Sheikh’s interest in Kashmir, a region she has visited since childhood. Sheikh’s scrolls combine Ali’s poems with excerpts from myriad sources—from medieval poetry to Salman Rushdie’s books. Her image references are just as wide-ranging: miniatures, wall paintings and magical Kashmiri folktales. While the paintings focus on the cosmopolitanism of the ancient Silk Roads that linked Kashmir to Central Asia and China, they are also imbued with a contemporary perspective that encourages viewers to reflect and think afresh about this contested territory.
Art Institute of Chicago
March 8 through May 18.
Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (Houston).
Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. An eye-opening look at the largely unknown ancient past of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, this exhibition draws on recently discovered archeological material never before seen in the United States. Roads of Arabia features objects excavated from several sites throughout the Arabian Peninsula, tracing the impact of ancient trade routes and pilgrimage roads stretching from Yemen in the south to Iraq, Syria and Mediterranean cultures in the north. Elegant alabaster bowls and fragile glassware, heavy gold earrings and Hellenistic bronze statues testify to a lively mercantile and cultural interchange among distant civilizations. The study of archeological remains only really began in Saudi Arabia in the 1970’s, yet brought—and is still bringing—a wealth of unsuspected treasures to light: temples, palaces adorned with frescoes, monumental sculpture, silver dishes and precious jewelry left in tombs. The exhibition, organized as a series of points along trade and pilgrimage routes, focuses on the region’s rich history as a major center of commercial and cultural exchange, provides both chronological and geographical information about the discoveries made during recent excavations, and emphasizes the important role played by this region as a trading center during the past 6000 years. Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, April through July 2014; Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, October 17 through January 18, 2015.
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
through March 9.
The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: A New Beginning.
The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: A New Beginning focuses on a document sometimes referred to as the first “bill of rights,” a football-sized, barrel-shaped clay object covered in Babylonian cuneiform that dates to the Persian king Cyrus the Great’s conquest of Babylon in the sixth century BCE. Almost 2600 years later, its remarkable legacy continues to shape contemporary political debates, cultural rhetoric and philosophy. The text on the cylinder announces Cyrus’s intention to allow freedom of worship to his new subjects. His legacy as a leader inspired rulers for millennia, from Alexander the Great to Thomas Jefferson, and the cylinder itself was used as a symbol of religious freedom and the hope for peace in the Middle East.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (formerly Prince of Wales Museum W. India), Mumbai
through March 10.
Lost and Found: The Secrets of Archimedes.
Lost and Found: The Secrets of Archimedes. Archimedes—mathematician, physicist, inventor, engineer and astronomer—lived in the third century BCE. In 10th-century Constantinople, a scribe copied Archimedes’ treatises onto parchment. In the 13th century, a monk erased the Archimedes text, cut the pages along the center fold, rotated the leaves 90 degrees, folded them in half and reused them to create a prayer book. This process of reuse results in a “palimpsest.” In 1999, the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore and a team of researchers began a project to read the erased texts of the Archimedes Palimpsest—the oldest surviving copy of works by the greatest mathematical genius of antiquity. Over 12 years, many techniques, novel and traditional, were employed by more than 80 scientists and scholars in the fields of conservation, imaging and classical studies. This exhibition tells the story of the resulting rediscovery of new scientific, philosophical and political texts from the ancient world. The manuscript demonstrates that Archimedes discovered the mathematics of infinity, mathematical physics and combinatorics—a branch of mathematics used in modern computing.
Huntington Library, San Marino, California
March 15 through June 8.
Silver from the Malay World.
Silver from the Malay World explores the rich traditions of silver in the Malay world. Intricate ornament drawn from geometry and nature decorates dining vessels, clothing accessories and ceremonial regalia. The exhibition features rarely seen collections acquired by three prominent colonial administrators in British Malaya at the turn of the 20th century.
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
through March 16.
The Life and Afterlife of David Livingstone: Exploring Missionary Archives.
The Life and Afterlife of David Livingstone: Exploring Missionary Archives brings together archives, photographs, maps and artifacts relating to one of the best known British explorers and humanitarian campaigners of the 19th century. He is famed for his extensive travels through Africa, his campaign against the slave trade and the rich archival legacy he left behind. A controversial figure, Livingstone was criticized for failing to make converts on his travels, and ultimately died evangelizing.
Brunei Gallery, SOAS, London
through March 22.
Count Your Blessings.
Count Your Blessings exhibits more than 70 sets of long and short strings of prayer beads from various Asian cultures, many with flourishes, counters, attachments or tassels. Some are made of precious or semiprecious stones, others of seeds, carved wood, ivory or bone. Collectively, they reveal sophisticated and complex arrangements and structures based on symbolic meanings.
Rubin Museum of Art, New York
through March 24.
Echoes: Islamic Art & Contemporary Artists.
Echoes: Islamic Art & Contemporary Artists explores how contemporary artists respond to Islamic art and culture in their own work, through a series of visual conversations that make connections across cultures, geography and time. The installation juxtaposes historical objects and architecture with contemporary works that draw on traditional Islamic styles, materials and subject matter. The achievements of traditional Islamic art are represented by works in the museum’s collection dating from the ninth to the 21st century from Islamic cultures across the globe, including examples of calligraphy, ceramics, paintings, carpets and architecture. Contemporary works include sculpture, video, photography, paintings, ceramics and digital collage by internationally recognized artists such as Shahzia Sikander and Rashid Rana.
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
through March 30.
The Lightning Testimonies.
The Lightning Testimonies is a disturbing eight-channel video installation exploring the often repressed, always sensitive and newly urgent subject of sexual violence against women on the Indian subcontinent. The work is a complex montage of simultaneous accounts, with stories ranging from wide-scale abduction and rape during the partition of India in 1947 to the powerful anti-rape protests in Manipur in 2004. Throughout the piece, Kanwar explores the many ways in which narratives of sexual violence are enmeshed within Indian social and political conflicts.
Art Institute of Chicago
through April 20.
Jameel Prize 3.
Jameel Prize 3 exhibits works of the short-list contenders for the third round of the international award, which focuses on contemporary art and design inspired by Islamic tradition. Of almost 270 nominations, this year’s short list includes artists from Azerbaijan, Lebanon, Morocco, India, Turkey, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and France, and the works on show range from Arabic typography and calligraphy to fashion inspired by Hagia Sofia in Istanbul, and from social design and video installation to delicate and precise miniature drawings.
Victoria & Albert Museum, London
through April 21.
Uruk: 5000 Years a Megacity.
Uruk: 5000 Years a Megacity presents a comprehensive overview of the discoveries resulting from 100 years of excavation and study at the site of humankind’s first metropolis, located at Warka in today’s southern Iraq. Even 5000 years ago, Uruk boasted many of the features that we associate with modern megacities: municipal water supply, intensive commerce, cultural exchange and—once writing had been invented—extensive bureaucracy. Today, the city is best known as the seat of the legendary king Gilgamesh, subject of the world’s first written epic, in which such now-familiar cultural elements as city walls, lion hunting and worship of the goddess Ishtar are mentioned.
LWL-Museum für Archäologie, Herne (Ruhr), Germany
through April 21.
Wise Men From the East: Zoroastrian Traditions in Persia and Beyond.
Wise Men From the East: Zoroastrian Traditions in Persia and Beyond explains this ancient but living religion through objects and coins from Persia and beyond, including Islamic coins from Mughal India that follow the Iranian Zoroastrian calendar adopted by the emperor Akbar. Modern objects show the ongoing legacy of this ancient Iranian religion and its significance as a symbol of national identity for Iranians in modern Persia and beyond.
British Museum, London
through April 27.
Hiwar: Conversations in Amman.
Hiwar: Conversations in Amman is the exhibition resulting from a program of residencies and talks that brought 14 artists from the Arab world, Africa, Asia and Latin America together in Amman. The program was born out of the necessity to promote exchanges between artists from the margins, not solely by juxtaposing their works in this exhibition but also by giving them the possibility of learning from each other’s practices and experiences. Also featured are works from the Khalid Shoman Collection by Abdul Hay Mosallam, Ahlam Shibli, Ahmad Nawash, Akram Zaatari, Amal Kenawy, Emily Jacir, Etel Adnan, Fahrelnissa Zeid, Hrair Sarkissian, Mona Hatoum, Mona Saudi, Mounir Fatmi, Nicola Saig, Rachid Koraïchi, and Walid Raad.
Darat al Funun, Amman, Jordan
through April 30.
In Focus: Ara Güler’s Anatolia.
Throughout his career, acclaimed and prolific photojournalist Ara Güler, Turkey’s best-known photographer, took more than 800,000 photographs documenting Turkish culture and important historical sites. This exhibition reveals a selection of his never-before-shown works of Anatolian monuments, taking the viewer on a historical journey through the lens of one of the world’s legendary photojournalists. The 24 works on view also challenge Güler’s self-definition as a photojournalist rather than an artist, and engage visitors in a critical debate about whether photography is an art form or a means of documentation.
Sackler Gallery, Washington, D.C.
through May 4.
Perspectives: Rita Bannerjee.
Perspectives: Rita Bannerjee draws on the artist’s background as a scientist and her experience as an immigrant. Her richly textured works complicate the role of objects as representations of cultures; by juxtaposing organic and plastic objects, she concocts worlds that are both enticing and subtly menacing.
Sackler Gallery, Washington, D.C.
through June 8.
When the Greeks Ruled Egypt.
When the Greeks Ruled Egypt explores the confluence of two cultures through more than 75 artworks. Gilded mummy masks, luxury glass, magical amulets and portraits in stone and precious metals demonstrate the integration of foreign styles while also paying tribute to the enduring legacy of ancient Egypt’s distinctive visual culture. Despite centuries of cultural contact with Greece, the art and architecture of the Egyptian kingdom retained its distinct style, uninfluenced by Greek tourists, traders, diplomats and soldiers. So when Ptolemy, one of Alexander’s generals, came to rule Egypt, he found it wise to adapt to the older culture, whose unique art forms had persisted for more than 3000 years. He installed himself as “pharaoh,” built a new capital at Alexandria and united the two major gods of each nation to form a new universal deity, Zeus Amon. The era of Ptolemy’s dynasty was an age of profound curiosity and rich experimentation, as the Greeks, and later the Romans, met an established culture far older than their own and exchanged artistic, social and religious ideas with it.
Art Institute of Chicago
through July 27.
Egypt’s Mysterious Book of the Faiyum.
Egypt’s Mysterious Book of the Faiyum is an exquisitely illustrated papy-rus from Greco-Roman Egypt, one of the most intriguing ancient representa-tions of a place ever found. The papyrus depicts the Faiyum Oasis, located to the west of the Nile, as a center of prosperity and ritual. For the first time in over 150 years, major sections owned by the Walters Art Museum and the Morgan Library & Museum, separated since the manuscript was divided and sold in the 19th century, will be reunited. Egyptian jewelry, papyri, statues, reliefs and ritual objects will illuminate the religious context that gave rise to this enigmatic text, which celebrates the crocodile god Sobek and his special relationship with the Faiyum. Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen, Mannheim, Germany, Spring 2015.
Roemer- und Pelizaeus-Museum, Hildesheim, Germany
through September 15.
Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (San Franciso).
Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. An eye-opening look at the largely unknown ancient past of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, this exhibition draws on recently discovered archeological material never before seen in the United States. Roads of Arabia features objects excavated from several sites throughout the Arabian Peninsula, tracing the impact of ancient trade routes and pilgrimage roads stretching from Yemen in the south to Iraq, Syria and Mediterranean cultures in the north. Elegant alabaster bowls and fragile glassware, heavy gold earrings and Hellenistic bronze statues testify to a lively mercantile and cultural interchange among distant civilizations. The study of archeological remains only really began in Saudi Arabia in the 1970’s, yet brought—and is still bringing—a wealth of unsuspected treasures to light: temples, palaces adorned with frescoes, monumental sculpture, silver dishes and precious jewelry left in tombs. The exhibition, organized as a series of points along trade and pilgrimage routes, focuses on the region’s rich history as a major center of commercial and cultural exchange, provides both chronological and geographical information about the discoveries made during recent excavations, and emphasizes the important role played by this region as a trading center during the past 6000 years. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, December 18 through March 9; Nelson Atkins Museum, Kansas City, April through July 2014;
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
October 17 through January 18.
Kader Attia, the renowned French–Algerian artist, unveils a new site-specific commission. The work revisits the biblical story of Jacob’s Ladder with a towering floor-to-ceiling structure of rare artifacts and books. Hidden inside this library is a cabinet of curiosities filled with items ranging from old scientific measuring devices to books by such authors as Descartes and Alfred Russel Wallace. At the center of the work, a beam of light shines up to a mirrored ceiling. Attia’s multimedia installations reflect on anthropology, politics and science and are rooted in history and archival research. His works explore ideas around identity in an age of globalization.
Whitechapel Gallery, London
through November 30.
Cleopatra’s Needle celebrates the Central Park Conservancy’s upcoming conservation of the obelisk of Thutmose III, popularly known as “Cleopatra’s Needle,” explores the meaning of obelisks in ancient Egyptian divine and funerary cults, and considers how these massive monuments were created and erected. An equally important part of the presentation shows the significance of this ancient architectural form in western culture.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
December 3 through June 8.