Islamic Art: Past, Present and Future
7th Biennial Hamad bin Khalifa Symposium on Islamic Art

November 2-4, 2017

The question of what the term “Islamic art” means is challenging. Is it even a useful term? Are there any better alternatives? The problem is particularly difficult when addressing modern and contemporary art. Does the work of art have to be made by a Muslim? Or does the artist have to come from the Middle East? Does the art have to have a religious component? Is Arabic calligraphy an essential element? Are there other features that define the term? This symposium will grapple with these broad questions from a range of viewpoints, including scholars who do or don’t use the term to write about the art, collectors and curators who buy and exhibit it, and artists who make it.

In her keynote address, the artist Lalla Essaydi will discuss how she incorporates experiences from her Moroccan girlhood along with Orientalist imagery to explore notions of gender and power in the Muslim world. She thus brings up the sometimes opposing viewpoints of the personal and the outsider. Over the course of the next two days, 10 speakers will address the term “Islamic art” from these and many other viewpoints. Some will look at the subject aesthetically; others will consider the role of social issues and place. Some will talk about the adoption of media new to the tradition, from oil painting and photography to cinema. Others will bring up the transformation of foreign forms, some from the West to the Islamic lands or vice versa and others across different parts of Islamic lands. They will thus grapple with the question of the translation of meaning in the transferal of forms. Artists too will talk about their own oeuvre in different ways, whether from an examination of their works through myriad illustrations to an interview-discussion with a curator.

All together, we hope that these presentations will invoke a lively discussion of how the arts of the Islamic lands can link the past, present and future.

You’ll find the conference program here, the list of speakers here, and online registration here. Hope to see you there.