The Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar ft. Dr. Oliver Watson

Posted By on October 10, 2019


The mission of the museum here is to show the achievements of the Islamic civilization, Islamic culture through great works of art. The building is fitting place in which to show a collection here, which is all of extraordinary good quality. It started off with the royal family acquiring some pieces, then came very soon the vision of forming a national museum with this intention of showing the achievements of Islamic culture. And then the collecting has been devoted to that end, since that moment. And yes, the museum is still acquiring pieces, we’ve acquired some very-very important pieces over the last year since we opened. I find these pieces very interesting, because they illustrate the global reach of the Islamic culture and influence. These are the pair of Alberelli. You probably think of ‘Alberelli’ as very typical Italian form, but in fact both the shape and the function are much earlier Islamic invention, used as they are later in Europe as containers for medical products. These would have formed a part of a very large set of such vessels, which were made in Damascus and then exported with the medical contents inside. And of course, in medicine it was the Islamic world that led the world in scientific medicine right up until the 17th century, when discoveries in Europe finally overtook the Islamic medieval practice. This is a bottle made of a dark blue glass with enamelled decoration on the top and some gild… gold, gold decoration, faded decoration as well. One of the earliest provinces that the Islamic Empire took, when it first extended out of Arabia, was Syria. And Syria was the centre of the Roman glass-making. This, perhaps, represents one kind of very high points of Islamic glass-making with the painted enamels of different colours and painted gold. The essential technology, the interesting thing is that you can run a continual line of development from glass way back in Classical world, long before the Islamic period, into the Islamic period, tremendous development then, and then further going on from that, in this case typically into Europe, into Italy and then later into Europe. This whole project is driven by the Emir and Sheikha Al Mayassa, who had, I think, the original vision for this and started the original collection and then the choice of the architect and the setting up the Qatar Museum Authority and so far has all come from the very top. And it’s thanks to their vision and support for this that Qatar is able to present a piece of world class architecture containing a world class collection. To have a chance to serve in an institution like this – a brand-new museum, a brand-new building of this importance and this splendour with the collection of this quality is something that very few people have an opportunity in a life time, I’m immensely privileged to be able to help in this project.

Posted by Lewis Heart

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