As conveners of the biennial Hamad bin Khalifa Symposia on Islamic Art and Culture, we would like to welcome you and give you some background to this extraordinary series of events. In 2005 when we were appointed as inaugural holders of the Hamad bin Khalifa Endowed Chair in Islamic Art at Virginia Commonwealth University, we were asked to organize a biennial symposium. One of the underlying thoughts was to make the latest scholarship on various aspects of the subject available to the widest possible audience. Hence, we decided to focus on broad topics, often so obvious that people rarely talked about them, but at the same time subjects that cut across media, time, and space. We wanted to highlight the range of approaches and methodologies – from history and archeology to curatorial and museum studies, conservation, urban planning and more – that are used to study Islamic art and culture. We also wanted to showcase the different scholars and experts who do so. And a final purpose behind our symposia was to organize events that allow ample time for a lively and personal interchange between all the participants. We hope that you will be able to participate as well, whether through the actual events, the podcasts, or the publications, as we explore some of the many extraordinary and often unknown facets of Islamic art and culture.
Sheila Blair and Jonathan Bloom, a wife-and-husband team who both earned their PhDs in Fine Arts and Middle East Studies from Harvard University in 1980, share both the Hamad bin Khalifa Endowed Chair of Islamic Art at Virginia Commonwealth University and the Norma Jean Calderwood University Professorship of Islamic and Asian Art at Boston College. Prolific scholars, they have written on all aspects of Islamic art, architecture, and civilization, from the Dome of the Rock to modern calligraphy. They are the authors, singly and together, of a score of award-winning books that have been translated into Arabic, Persian, Spanish, Greek, Japanese, Korean, and Polish and as well as at least two hundred articles in journals, encyclopedias, and collected works. In addition to several surveys of Islamic art, they curated the 2006-7 exhibition Cosmophilia: Islamic Art from the David Collection and wrote the accompanying catalog. They also convene the international biennial Hamad bin Symposia on Islamic Art and Culture, whose proceedings have been published by Yale University Press.