Spaces, Photographs, Texts: Reinterpretation in International Islamic Art Exhibitions
Dr. Melissa Forstrom

Assistant Professor, Purchase College, State University of New York
Saturday 2 February 2019
Beit al Beiruti I 6:00 pm

Many, if not all of the major Islamic Art collections worldwide have been reinstalled in the past twenty years. In fact, Islamic art collections may be the most consistently reinstalled art historical sub-field ever. Often exhibitions of Islamic Art are discussed (by exhibition creators and exhibition reviewers) using language that suggests alternative narratives exist, such as the exhibition “tell another story” of Islam, “bridge cultural divides” and “combat” negative media narratives.

Based on these assertions and through a survey the interpretative approaches focusing specifically on space, photographs and texts in four Islamic art exhibitions, this illustrated presentation asks: Do alternative stories exist in these Islamic art exhibitions? And if so, can we specify where? The exhibitions that will be discussed are:

  • Art of Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and Later South Asia,
    Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
  • Arts of Islam, Louvre, Paris
  • Pergamon Museum, Berlin
  • Islamic Art at the Hermitage, Saint Petersburg, Russia

Through this survey, this talk explores the “alternative narrative” claims and exposes the complicated dialogical and sometimes reflective relationship between media representations of Islam and the exhibitions of Islamic art.

Dr. Forstrom’s research and teaching focuses on the intersection(s) of museums, exhibition interpretation, communications and society. Her current research project documents and analyzes the changing interpretation in Islamic art exhibition in the United States, Europe and Asia.

Having presented her research at conferences in the United States, the United Kingdom, Singapore and Russia, Melissa has also been invited to speak at the Detroit Institute of the Arts, Museum of Fine Arts- Boston, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, the New York Public Library, the King Abdulaziz Centre for World Culture at the American Alliance of Museums Conference, and P21 Gallery (London). She has guest lectured at The New School, Johns Hopkins, the University of Leicester-UK, University of Oslo, Humboldt University-Berlin, University of Westminster-London, and the University of Wales.

Photo: Moroccan Court at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.