Taxonomy Of Islamic Art

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most Islamic lands, is completely absent. Since Islamic art got its first exposure on a larger scale in Europe at World Fairs where emphasis was on technique and material, the taxonomy based on material caught on within collections and museum display as well (Celik, 1992; Weber, 2012a, p. 39). Indeed, expositions of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century were frequently material based (Kröger, 2012, p. 176; Shalem, 2012, p. 7). Even though the 1910 exhibition in Munich was arranged with a different taxonomy, the multivolume catalogue that was published two years later used the taxonomy of techniques and materials (Troelenberg E. , 2012b, pp. 29-30; Sarre & Martin, 1912). This effect even resonates in the present, as many collections…show more content…
The taxonomy approach that follows the chronology of the objects is within the field of Islamic art frequently connected with dynasties. Following academic research, museums with Islamic art collections adopted this system of classification based on the ruling houses (Weber, 2012b, p. 303). This can be seen as another example of the museums adopting the academic world of Islamic art. As an example, the catalogue accompanying the new 1971 opening of the Museum für Islamische Kunst in West Berlin had its chapters according to dynasty, with one initial chapter about religious art which is more thematic or societal based (Brisch, 1971). Positive aspects of this taxonomy are the context it can provide and the way it is framed by time and space. However, this taxonomy has also received critique, or as Nassar Rabbat wrote: “...classifying Islamic architecture along the dynastic sequence of Islamic history – that is, to speak of Abbasid or Mamluk architecture- has led to the disregard for the architecture’s autonomous evolution, since artistic and architectural movements rarely correspond to political shifts.” (Rabbat, 2004, p. 20). Dynastic periodization gives a prominent, in some cases too prominent, place to the ruling dynasty as patron and tastemaker. Another point of criticism is that with this taxonomy small dynasties get less space and risk to be…show more content…
The collection of Friedrich Sarre was first divided by material and then by time (Sarre, 1906, p. VI). On the contrary, the 1910 Munich exhibition, where Sarre was the curator, was arranged around the major dynasties and within these it was divided by technique (Troelenberg E. , 2012b, p. 20). The “Museum of Islamic Art” in Berlin, where Sarre’s collection is also included, combined the Masterpiece mode of display with a chronological division after which it was divided further by regions, hereby combining a focus on aesthetic values with cultural history museum aspects (Kühn, 2012, p. 218). On the other hand, at the British Museum, where Islamic art is within the department of the Middle East, objects are displayed chronologically according to dynasty and then by theme, together telling a narrative with information panels and without focusing on ‘Masterpieces’ (Suleman, 2012, p. 280). Indeed, translations of Arabic and Persian inscriptions on objects are provided, something that is not always the case in other museums. Different combinations are possible, although the combinations of time/dynasty and technique or the other way around, are quite prominent in museums. Islamic art departments that are part of a larger museum face different taxonomy challenges as it needs to be coherent with the other departments. A museum only containing Islamic art has in such cases more freedom to play around

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