The Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia’s exhibition Inspired By The East: How The Islamic World Influenced Western Art, which was supposed to be one of the main highlights of the Malaysian art scene calendar, has been postponed indefinitely.
The exhibition, featuring a joint curatorial team from the Islamic Art Museum Malaysia (IAMM) and the British Museum in London, was slated to open in Kuala Lumpur in July.
Inspired By The East showed at the British Museum last October and ended its run there in January.
“As of now, we don’t have any specific dates on when this show can go up (in KL), not even a tentative date. Everything depends on the Covid-19 situation in both countries, ” says the exhibition’s assistant curator Rekha Verma.
Focusing on 500 years – 1500 AD to early 20th century – of Orientalism (Western art inspired by the East), the exhibition in London featured 120 exhibits, with more than half of the artefacts on loan from IAMM.
The rest were from the British Museum, along with exhibit loans from the British Library, the National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Institute of British Architects.
In light of public health safety, it might be a long wait for IAMM to reopen its doors to the public.
But when it does, Rekha, 49, who is also IAMM’s head of collections and exhibition manager, reveals that Inspired By The East will be larger in scale than the British show.
At press time, the museum cannot confirm the exact number of exhibits. But nearly 50 objects will be from the British Museum, which is still in London. However, all of IAMM’s artifacts have been safely brought home and now stored in the museum’s vaults.
For certain, there will no shortage of highlights when Inspired By The East show eventually opens. So the wait will be worthwhile.
“Among these are rare and important works that have never been displayed in Malaysia. In some cases, this will be the first time they have ever been exhibited anywhere around the world, ” says Rekha.
The oldest artifact is a woodcut by Dutch artist Erhard Reeuwich titled Map Of The Holy Land. Dating back to 1486 AD, this exhibit belongs to the British Museum.
Another exhibit to look out for is an Ottoman gilded copper helmet, captured at the Second Siege of Vienna. Dating back to about 1650 AD, this IAMM artifact, says Rekha, is a rare survivor.
If you miss the IAMM gallery walkabout, you can take a virtual journey through the galleries on the IAMM website (iamm.org.my/vr/).
Once the museum is allowed to reopen, IAMM will strictly adhere to the health and safety guidelines imposed by the government.
These include taking the temperature of visitors and staff, providing hand sanitizers, daily disinfection of all museum areas before opening and after closing hours, and limiting the number of visitors at any one time.
At present, IAMM is extending two of its major exhibitions, which opened earlier this year, namely An Introduction To Islamic Calligraphy and The Coin Chronicles: Numismatics Of The Islamic World, till the end of this year. Both the exhibitions originally ended in April.
The IAMM has lost over 16,000 visitors since the government imposed the movement control order in March.
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