One Way to Counter Art Terrorists

Destruction of an unidentified king of Hatra by militants in 2015
Destruction of an unidentified king of Hatra by militants in 2015

I argue in a Saturday Op-Ed that one way to think about the iconoclasm of so-called Islamic State militants is to value the art they would destroy:

The Islamic State militants destroy art to send a powerful and destructive message: that learning, beauty and the transformational power of art has no place in any so-called Islamic State. We can expose the lie in this message in one simple way: by supporting ancient and contemporary art from the region.

Our city demonstrates how effective an ambassador art can be. Houston stands proud as one of America’s emerging cities for terrific art from all over the world, especially art from the Middle East. Works of art that formed the Houston-based FotoFest 2014 Biennial are currently on display at the Emirates Palace Gallery in Abu Dhabi. Also, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) has an outstanding collection of Islamic art spanning the 9th to early 20th centuries; beautiful calligraphy and other decorative art that demonstrates the region’s commitment to learning and beauty.

We should encourage the MFA and other museums to responsibly display more works of Islamic art from this troubled region. By countering the vile message of the Islamic State by consuming and valuing Islamic art, we value and preserve what they would destroy.

The full piece is here.

Continue reading “One Way to Counter Art Terrorists”

Fatamid ewer sells for 3 million pounds

The fatamid ewer (discussed back in January) has now sold for 3.2 million pounds at a Christie’s auction earlier this month.

From the Reuters report:

The ewer is the same one that came up for auction in Britain in January this year, when it was catalogued as a 19th century French claret jug and valued at 100-200 pounds.

In fact experts now believe it is an extremely rare ewer from the Fatimid dynasty which ruled parts of northern Africa and the Middle East in the 10th-12th centuries.

Reflecting its importance it sold in January for 220,000 pounds, although auction house sources said that transaction was later “annulled by agreement”. They gave no further details.

Christie’s said the ewer, which sold to an anonymous client in the saleroom, was made for the court of the Fatimid rulers of Cairo in the late 10th or early 11th century. It was embellished in enamelled gold mounts made in 1854 by a French silversmith.

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Rare Islamic Art Discovered at Auction

This rock crystal Fatamid ewer sold for only £220,000 after being miscatalogued as a French 18th-19th century claret jug with an asking price of £100-200. It is instead a rare and valuable 11th century Fatamid object; the last one which appeared on the market was in 1862 and was purchased by the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Lucian Harris of the Art Newspaper has the story. Is this really the way we should care for one of the world’s rarest examples of Islamic art?

One dealer who described the crystal ewer as a “Holy Grail” of Islamic art ruefully recounted how he had looked at the sale but failed to identify the ewer from the small, indistinct photograph of a “claret jug” on the website of the auction house. “I’ve spent my whole life hoping to find one” he said. “This may be the biggest sleeper ever to appear on the Islamic art market. It seems strange that it stopped at £220,000.”
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