Transcending Boundaries: “The Arts of Islam” Exhibition, Nasser Khalili Collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Australia, 2007

By Louise Ryan.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper examines contemporary museum practice and the representation of culture, identity and belonging in a display of Islamic artefacts. “The Arts of Islam” exhibition was accompanied by a comprehensive catalogue, an extensive lecture series, film screenings, musical performances, educational programs, celebrity talks, international symposium, conference and community days. This paper, based on socio-cultural inquiry in-progress, includes an in-depth description of the case study in question, surrounding socio-cultural issues and contemporary approaches to debates over conceptual concerns and theoretical issues that involve museum displays and their capacity to build civic values and promote cross-cultural understanding.
The researcher uses existing empirical data to highlight the roles of government, individuals and communities in the exhibition, their respective contributions, and the benefits that each enjoyed as a result of their involvement in this highly successful collaborative venture. The actions of these sections of society are discussed and interpreted as instances of building civic values and promoting the public belief in shared international, national and community identity. This account positions the educational mission of the art museum and it’s supporting agencies in the broadest public context and highlights the art display as a significant arena for establishing and legitimating social norms and practices whilst steering cultural values.
This case study suggests issues and implications for further exploration both empirically and theoretically. On-going research would continue to identify the degree to which the selection and discourse regarding artworks on display are influenced by global and local political situations and are indicative of geo-political contexts and shifting community values.

Keywords: Islamic Art, Community/Cross-Cultural Understanding, Social Norms and Cultural Values, Identity and Belonging, Local/Global Politics

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp.67-80. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.893MB).

Louise Ryan

Lecturer in Art Education, School of Art History and Art Education, College Of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Louise Ryan is a lecturer in Art education at the University of New South Wales. She has recently completed her Masters of Art Education (Honours) in the area of museum studies, specifically educational philanthropy, Australian art and cultural development. During this study Louise developed a socio-cultural model which allows the investigation of power/knowledge relationships implicit in the displaying of cultural artefacts. She has presented at conferences and published papers on this topic both nationally and internationally. Titles include “Forging Diplomacy: The Carnegie Corporation and the ‘Art of Australia Exhibition’“ (2002, 2004), Forging Diplomacy: The reforming power of culture (2006), “Patterns of Exclusion: Displaying the Indigenous Art of Australia” (2007), “Strategies of Cultural Inclusion: An investigation of the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the ‘Art of Australia 1788-1941’ Exhibition” (2008), “Shaping Identity: A socio-cultural model analysing power/knowledge relationships in Art Displays” (2009). Louise is currently investigating modern sponsorship of the arts, in particular the “Arts of Islam: Treasures from the Nasser D Khalili Exhibiton” at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 2007, as part of her proposed Phd thesis at the Centre for Cultural Studies, University of Western Sydney.


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