Islamic Art and the Museum: Challenges and Solutions

Dina M. Turkieh
Louvre Abu Dhabi’s Department of External Outreach and Cultural Engagement

Over the last two decades, the world has suffered major refugee crises, with migrants mainly from unsettled Muslim countries seeking asylum in Europe and North America. In parallel, the world has witnessed the increasing radicalisation of Islam and Muslims, extremism, Islamophobia, and struggles related to integrating migrants into their new communities. Museums and cultural institutions in the West and the Arab Islamic world are looking to their Islamic art collections for answers and solutions, resulting in the creation, renovation and expansion of Islamic art museums, the relocation of many Islamic art collections, and the holding of exhibitions and conferences focusing on Islamic art and culture in both the Muslim and Western world. Recreating Islamic art galleries and rethinking Islamic art collections are no easy tasks for museums and curators for various reasons, primarily because the presentation and representation of Islamic art collections in museums are very political, reflecting the unsettled relationship between East and West. Questions such as ‘Who are represented in the museum?’ and ‘How they are represented?’ give different meanings and values to objects and thus to the people and civilisations that produced them. This paper explores the challenges faced by museums and curators working with Islamic art collections, considering the historical context of the academic field of Islamic art and how it is related to the way Islamic art objects are exhibited in museums. It sheds light on the difficulties faced by curators in museums when curating collections of Islamic art to their different publics. It also looks at the solutions proposed. This many challenges related to the colonial circumstances under which the Islamic art discipline was founded in Europe, include limitations in the definition of Islamic art, characteristics of the Islamic artworks in museums, and the difficulties experienced in mediating such objects to museum visitors.

Keywords: Islamic art, new museology, meaning making, collections, display challanges

Cláudia Garradas
Art, heritage, and museum researcher, Dina is an experienced historian of art, specializing in Islamic Art, and a museum expert. She currently works at the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s Department of External Outreach and Cultural Engagement, where she oversees the research collection and provides training to both internal and external staff on best museum practices.
With in-depth knowledge of museums, galleries, and the heritage industry, as well as the Eastern and Western history of art and archaeology, Dina is well-versed in planning, managing, and tracking museum projects that focus on inclusivity within the museum space, art and engagement, and art community building. As a refined communicator, she is fluent in Arabic, English, and French. Dina earned her BA in History of Art and Archaeology with distinction from Paris Sorbonne University in 2014, where she received the best student award for her exceptional academic achievements. She later obtained her MA in Museum Studies with distinction from the University of Leicester, winning the prestigious Professor Suzan Pearce Prize in 2022. Her MA research project, centered around gallery objects and collections, achieved the highest scoring dissertation ever to receive this honor. Currently, Dina is working on her PhD dissertation proposal.
In her free time, Dina loves to travel and explore museums and archaeological sites, nurturing her passion for art and history.