A new exhibition Syria: A Living History will open at The Aga Khan Museum Toronto on October 15, 2016. The exhibition brings together over 5,000 years of art highlighting the contributions that the diverse cultures within Syria — Mesopotamian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Persian, Ottoman, and Arab — have made to world heritage. The exhibition, which represents collaboration between eight international museums and private collections, will run through February 27, 2017.
Many of the works of art are being exhibited together for the first time and will give audiences a unique insight into the marvellous cultural traditions of both ancient and present-day Syria, thereby underscoring the dialogue between these traditions throughout the ages.
“We hope that a better appreciation of Syria’s priceless contributions to the world’s heritage over five millennia will add urgency to the efforts to bring about peace and reconciliation in that country,” says Aga Khan Museum Director and CEO, Henry Kim. “The sheer variety of these artifacts and their cultural breadth reveal just how multicultural Syria was, long before the term ‘multicultural’ was even invented, and how essential that diversity was to the development of so many of the world’s greatest civilizations.”
The exhibition represents an unprecedented partnership between several renowned public and private institutions. Institutional partners include the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto; the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts; the Museum of Islamic Art, Berlin; the Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin; the Louvre, Paris; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Atassi Foundation, Dubai; and the Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf Collection, Toronto.
The historians and curators behind the exhibition include Dr. Filiz Çakır Phillip, Curator, Aga Khan Museum; Professor Nasser Rabbat, Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture, MIT; and Ross Burns, an architectural historian based in Sydney, Australia. The exhibition showcases objects carefully chosen by Dr. Çakır Phillip in discussion with each partnering institution.
Dr. Çakır Phillip observes, “Together, the selected works show a continuously strong and deep interest in both human and animal imagery in the arts of Syria, regardless of their artists’ differing belief systems or ethnic backgrounds, amounting to the rich cultural heritage of the country.”
A section of the exhibition will highlight work currently underway to document major monuments and sites. Professor Nasser Rabbat provides the interpretive voice for the exhibition. He will also contribute to a two-day symposium at the Aga Khan Museum (October 29–30), in which he will examine Syria from both historical and cultural perspectives.
Exhibition-related programming includes a lecture by Ross Burns on the architectural heritage of Syria, a round-table discussion on post-conflict Syria, and performances by Syrian-born artists and musicians such as Lubana Al Quntar and Kinan Azmeh (joined by visual artist Kevork Mourad). The elegant Damascus panels that adorn the interior of Diwan, the Museum’s restaurant, provide the perfect backdrop for a unique series of special concerts and themed events.
Syria: A Living History opens on October 15, 2016 and runs through February 27, 2017.