Islamic art is perhaps the most accessible manifestation of a complex civilization that often seems enigmatic to outsiders. Through its brilliant use of color and its superb balance between design and form, Islamic art creates an immediate visual impact. Its strong aesthetic appeal transcends distances in time and space, as well as differences in language, culture, and creed."
– Dr Linda Komaroff, associate curator of Islamic Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Islamic and traditional art
Introduction to Islamic art
by Dr Linda Komaroff
This illustrated introduction links history with artistic developments and covers the early Islamic, early medieval, late medieval andlater Islamic periods. It is based around the extensive collection of works at Los Angeles County Museum of Art, ranging in date from the seventh to the 19th century and geographically from southern Spain to Central Asia. For a quick overview of the items discussed, see the page of thumbnail images.
The Nature of Islamic Art
Metropolitan Museum of Art/ Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
Introduction to Islamic art
Islamic art history online
Discover Islamic Art
A virtual museum consisting of "exhibitions" and a permanent collection of the art and architecture of the great Islamic dynasties of the Mediterranean from the seventh to the twentieth century.
Islamic Art (c.622-1900)
Encyclopedia of Art Education
Arts of the Islamic World
Islamic art reading list
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Art of the Mamluks
Illustrated elections from a book by Dr. Esin Atil, describing the art of the Mamluk empire that ruled in Egypt, Syria, and Palestine for more than 250 years.
Art and Islam
Elisabeth Siddiqui discusses the relationship between Islamic art and the principles of Islam.
Rugs: design, dyeing techniques, materials, weaving and knotting, classification, etc.
Tattoos and henna
Skin decoration in the Middle East. What is an "Arabic tattoo"?
Pre-Islamic Art from Saudi Arabia
Ancient Near Eastern Art
A collection of photographs. Detroit Institute of Art
Re:Orient exhibition, 2013
Pictures from Re:Orient, a exhibition looking at modernism in Arab art from the 1950s to the 1970s. The exhibition, organised by the Barjeel Art Foundation, was held in the UAE in 2013.
Strike Oppose exhbition, 2011
Pictures from Strike Oppose, an exhibition organised by the Barjeel Art Foundation and held at the Maraya Art Centre, Sharjah, in 2011.
Walls and Margins exhibition, 2015
Pictures from an exhibition organised by the Barjeel Art Foundation looking at works of art which tackle the effects and consequences of established walls and barriers, both physical and ideological.
A Saudi artist pauses in the face of politics
Review of works by Abdulnasser Gharem – his first solo exhibition in the United States
Word Into Art
BBC report of an exhibition of contemporary Islamic art at the British Museum in 2006.
Politics in Modern Arab Art
An illustrated lecture by UAE-based writer and art collector Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi discussing the political undertones of iconic artworks of the 20th century in the Arab world. From the Baathist regimes of Syria and Iraq to Egypt’s pan-Arabism under Gamal Abdel Nasser, paintings and sculptures in addition to film and performance have been employed by various governments as a tool of soft power to propagate their policies to the public not only in their respective states but throughout the region and beyond. Despite this government patronage of the arts, many artists have chosen to challenge their authorities through their art practices.
The Medicis in the Desert
Ahmed Mater and Ashraf Fayadh were best friends. One is now Saudi Arabia’s most illustrious artist and cultural commissar. The other languishes in a dark prison. Nicolas Pelham charts their rise and fall. (The Economist 1843 magazine, 24 April 2018)
Syria: Art in Conflict
A collection of works created by Syrian artists since the beginning of the conflict in 2011.
Flying Without Wings
A series of paintings by Maysaloun Faraj which she began in 2014 in response to the war on Gaza and the ongoing land, air and sea blockade of the Gaza Strip by Israel.
Articles and images, plus the 1938 manifesto of Egyptian surrealists: "Long live degenerate art"
The Double Game of Egyptian Surrealism: How to Curate a Revolutionary Movement
By Jonathan Guyer and Surti Singh. Los Angeles Review of Books, 17 April 2017
Were the Egyptian Surrealists too unpatriotic to be popular?
By Raphael Cormack, Apollo magazine, 10 January 2017
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi's art showed the grotesque symptoms of dictatorship
By Jonathan Jones, The Guardian, 26 August 2011
The permanent revolution: From Cairo to Paris with the Egyptian surrealists
Two independent exhibitions commemorate an important chapter of Egyptian Modernism.
By Fatenn Mostafa Kanafani, Mada Masr, November 11, 2016
Barjeel Art Foundation
An online collection of more than 950 works by Arab artists. The website also has commissioned essays, texts and exhibition catalogues which can be downloaded.
Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art
"An Arab perspective on modern and contemporary art." Based in Doha, Qatar
Mathaf Encyclopedia of Modern Art
"A major resource on artists from the Arab world and their histories."
The Jalanbo Collection
"The collection’s mission has evolved into one that strives to advance the intellectual development of art coming from the region. The first step to achieving this is to help make the region’s art accessible to anyone with an internet connection."
"A non-commercial collection of contemporary art from the Arab world and Iran."
Founded by Basma Al Sulaiman, BASMOCA (Basma Al Sulaiman Museum of Contemporary Art), promotes emerging contemporary Saudi artists and seeks to establish intellectual and artistic links between the kingdom and the west.
A foundation established by HRH Princess Jawaher Bint Majed Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to support creativity in Saudi Arabia: "We are convinced that the full creative expression of artists cannot be realised without the support of those who can help their vision to be fulfilled. We are committed to celebrate our unique Saudi perspective and to share common ground with other cultures."
Contemporary Arab art
The Arab British Centre in London has a small permanent collection of Arab art and also holds exhibitions from time to time.
Leena Al Ayoobi – The Bahraini artist recreating the image of women in the Gulf
Pink Jinn, 7 November 2017
Three female Saudi artists reflect on their changing culture in a London exhibition
Pink Jinn, 1 August 2017
Darat al Funun
Based in Jordan, Darat al Funun aims to "provide a platform for contemporary Arab artists, to support art practices and artistic exchange, to stimulate critical discourse, and to research, document and archive Arab art".
Kahlil Gibran's Art
The writer turns artist
Paintings of Yemen
A selection of watercolours and oils by Caroline Lees