Seeing Klimt and “Timeless Modernity” in Islamic Art

IMAGE: Tile (detail),Kashan (Persia), early 13th century. Quartz-frit body, luster painted 16 7/8 x 13 3/8 in. (43 x 34 cm) The Keir Collection of Islamic Art on loan to the Dallas Museum of Art

0aIf this early 13th-century Persian tile, which we’re using as our April cover image, looks strikingly modern to you, you’re not the only one. Sabiha Al Khemir, senior adviser for Islamic art for the Dallas Museum of Art, says she thinks of Gustav Klimt when she sees the tile, which is one of some 2,000 objects from the Keir Collection of Islamic Art, which has been placed on long-term loan to the DMA for the next 15 years. Although the tile is not included in Al Khemir’s upcoming exhibition Nur: Light in Art and Science from the Islamic World, it’s related to one of the show’s main themes.

“For me, it’s Klimt, you know?” said Al Kheimr in our upcoming cover story. “We’re talking 13th-century Kashan (Persia), and for me, Islamic art has within it that timeless modernity that is there. The Keir has very good examples of luster-painted pottery, but also one of the themes in Nur is ‘The Art of Luster.’ So it brings together luster-painted pottery through this migration journey—from Iraq, from Egypt, from Iran, from Syria, from Spain—and then you see it through a thread of light.

“For example, you see how—in terms of the chemistry and the recipe—luster oscillates between lemony green or yellow to reddish brown, depending on how much tin or copper is in the mixture of the recipe,” Al Khemir said. “The balance between tin and copper in your tile is what creates that reflection. It’s an example that connects creativity across place and time.”

Nur opens Sunday. The Keir Collection starts arriving in Dallas in May.