The Aga Khan Museum, opened September 2014 in Toronto, Canada, is the first museum in North America dedicated to the arts and the cultures of the world of Islam. Founded by His Highness the Aga Khan, the Museum is dedicated to the acquisition, preservation and display of artifacts – from various periods and geographies – relating to the intellectual, cultural, artistic and religious heritage of communities in the world of Islam. Through art, performances, exhibitions,
research, education and collaboration with other leading international
institutions, the Aga Khan Museum promotes knowledge of the contributions of
Islamic civilizations to world heritage.
The Museum collection contains over one thousand artefacts and artworks and spans over one thousand years of history. The objects – in ceramic, metalwork, ivory, stone and wood, textile and carpet, glass and rock crystal objects, parchment and illustrated paintings on paper – present an overview of the artistic accomplishments of civilizations of Islam from the Iberian Peninsula to China.
Housed in a innovative new building, the Museum allows the public to experience the living traditions of these societies as well as their artistic and cultural practices. The Museum was designed by the renowned Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki. The abstract notion of light and the light of human creativity and openness were sources of inspiration for the design of the Aga Khan Museum. Maki’s design is contained in a 10,000m² building within a simple rectilinear footprint 81 metres long by 54 metres wide. The four primary functions (exhibition spaces, an auditorium, classrooms and workshops, and library and media-centre) revolve around a central courtyard, which acts as the heart of the building and integrates the different functions into a cohesive whole while allowing each space to maintain its independence, privacy, and character.
The Museum shares the site with the Ismaili Centre, designed by Charles Correa, and is surrounded by a ten-hectare landscaped park, designed by Vladimir Djurovic. Together, they constitute important landmarks and green space for the city of Toronto.
After Alexander the Great conquered Syria in 333 BCE, limestone reliefs and statues began to show Greek influence in the portrayal of human figures. Some carvings from this period feature inscriptions in Aramaic, a language using the Phoenician alphabet, invented in Ancient Syria. This alphabet is the ancestor of every alphabetic language in the world.
Roman Age, 64 BCE–472 CE
In Roman-ruled Syria, reliefs and sculptures continued to follow the Grecian style. Under the leadership of Queen Zenobia, the city of Palmyra flourished. A diversity of Mesopotamian, Hellenistic, and Roman influences were combined in mosaic work. In Syria, they often feature a profusion of plants or creatures.
Byzantine Age, 472–632
The Roman Empire’s move east to Byzantium, its recognition of Christianity, and the fall of Rome in 472 all coincided with a rise in the influence of Christianity in Syria. Works of art from this period depict subjects such as the early Christian saints in a flat and tightly bordered early medieval style.