This fall, the Dallas Museum of Art
has mounted Spirit and Matter: Masterpieces from the Keir Collection of Islamic Art, the first North American exhibition from one of the worlds most significant and rarely exhibited private collections of Islamic art. This unprecedented exhibition showcases more than 50 of the most historically important masterworks from the Keir Collection, which is arriving in Dallas this year on a 15-year loan to the DMA.
Assembled over the course of five decades by the noted art collector Edmund de Unger (19182011), the Keir Collection is recognized by scholars as one of the most geographically and historically comprehensive of its kind, encompassing almost 2,000 works spanning three continents and 13 centuries of Islamic cultural productionfrom rock crystal to metalwork, ceramics, textiles, carpets, and works on paper. Spirit and Matter marks the first of multiple exhibitions that present different areas of the collection over the course of its loan to the Museum.
Following the announcement last year that the Keir Collection would arrive at the DMA on a long-term loan, the Museum opened in May 2014 a focused exhibition of one of the collections most notable works: a rock crystal ewer from Egypts Fatimid Caliphate (9691171), one of only seven of its kind in existence. The ewer has remained on view at the DMA as part of the new exhibition.
We are deeply grateful to the Keir Collections Trustees for entrusting us with this unparalleled treasure, which will enhance the DMAs growing strengths in the area of Islamic art, said Maxwell L. Anderson, the Museums Eugene McDermott Director. Its a great privilege to introduce these works to a North American audience for the first time in the collections history, offering our visitors a unique opportunity to gain greater insight into the artistic heritage of the Islamic world.
On view through July 31, 2016, Spirit and Matter has been organized and developed by Dr. Sabiha Al Khemir, the DMAs Senior Advisor for Islamic Art, who was integral in bringing the Keir Collection to Dallas. The arrival of the Keir Collection at the DMA has transformed the Museums Islamic art holdings into the third largest in North America.
With distinctive strengths across nearly every major period of Islamic cultural production, the Keir Collection is one of the most important collections of Islamic art ever assembled, said Sabiha Al Khemir. We are thrilled by the opportunity to display this remarkable collection with new scholarship and interpretive strategies that will illuminate the 13-century history of Islamic art for audiences locally and globally.
Over the course of the loan, the DMA is establishing a new gallery space dedicated to exhibiting works from the Keir Collection, and will also create the first-ever digital archive of the collection to enhance its accessibility for scholarship and public engagement. The loan and exhibition of the Keir Collection affirms the DMAs commitment to expanding its collections through long-term loans and cultural exchanges, as a complement to its robust acquisitions program.
The Keir Collections exhibition at the DMA exemplifies the Museums DMX program, which was launched in 2012 and facilitates loans of cultural objects from international organizations in exchange for the Museum sharing its expertise in conservation, exhibitions, education and new media. Texas has the fifth largest Muslim population in the United States, and until now Dallas has been the only one of the four largest metropolitan areas in the nation lacking a significant public display of the art of the Islamic world. None of the projects of DMX, including the Keir loan, involve fees, but instead are intended to foster scholarship, relationship-building and lifelong learning.
Spirit and Matter: Masterpieces from the Keir Collection of Islamic Art is organized by the Dallas Museum of Art. The exhibition is presented by Kosmos Energy.
The Keir Collection
Named after the 18th-century British mansion where it was once housed, the Keir Collection includes textiles, carpets, ceramics, rock crystal, metalwork and works on paper. Reflecting the tastes of Edmund de Ungera Hungarian-born lawyer who began collecting Islamic art in the 1950sthe Keir Collection is particularly strong in the fields of early luster ceramic ware, while the rock crystalincluding the currently exhibited Fatimid Eweris perhaps the most important collection of its type outside the treasury of San Marco in Venice. Other highlights include the sumptuous silk textiles with their intricately drawn designs from the imperial workshops of 16th- and 17th-century Safavid Iran, and then there are distinctive examples of illuminated figurative manuscripts from the 14th to 17th century. With the exception of an exhibition of some 100 works at the Museum of Islamic Art in Berlin in 200708, most of the collection has never been exhibited in a museum setting prior to its presentation at the DMA.