The Islamic Arts Museum of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur
We really enjoyed our trip to Kuala Lumpur and felt that it's a very underrated city. We enjoyed the food, the people and the diversity. In particular we enjoyed visiting the Islamic Arts Museum of Malaysia. Anyone who follows my blog knows we've spent quite a bit of time in the Islamic world over the last few years and have visited several significant Islamic art collections at the Louvre, the Met in New York, in Tehran and elsewhere.
Generally these collections take one of two predominant approaches, either a chronological survey of Islamic arts (like the new Islamic Arts section in the Louvre) or a geographical survey looking at the regional development of Islamic arts and culture (seen at the newly reconfigured Islamic arts galleries at the Metropolitan Museum in New York).
Each approach provides its own strengths and weaknesses but what is nice about the Islamic Arts Museum of Malaysia is that you'll see exhibits driven by both topic (calligraphy, ceramics, architecture, weapons) and by region (Mughal art, Islamic art in China, the Malay world etc.). This gives you a better sense for the incredible diversity of Islamic art and culture.
D. loved a temporary exhibit on contemporary Islamic calligraphy but I focused on the permanent collection.
There is a wonderful room housing a collection of architectural models of famous mosques and it was surprising how many we had visited including the magnificent Umayyad Mosque in Damascus which has been so damaged in their civil war. You can see the model below, this building began as a church and was later modified.I was struck by this model of a Chinese mosque in Xi'an, which D. visited years ago.
The museum has a fascinating collection of Chinese porcelain and cloisonné ware, inscribed with Arabic. These pieces may have been made for domestic and/or export markets.I've never seen examples like this. They were particularly interesting to see because Islamic art from Asia (and Africa) is often under represented in other museum collections which trend to follow Islam as far as the Mughals and no further. For example why didn't the architectural models include incomparable mud mosque at Djenne in Mali?
There were so many beautiful crafts represented in the museum which was a wonderland of different textures and colors.
I recognized these decorative glass works as mosque lamps as we had previously seen several magnificent examples at the Gulbenkian in Lisbon.I particularly enjoyed the textile gallery. Which included a wide range of textile including many from Malaysia, Central Asia and India.
Who could resist embroidery of this quality?
There was also a great collection of jewelry including Turkmen and Indian pieces, with everything from wedding jewelry to crowns.
I particularly like this Mughal duo, a turban pin with feathers and small miniature.There were some lovely works from Central Asia, including this necklace which I think was from Turkmenistan.
Its a nice collection and well worth the couple of hours it will take to explore. We walked from the metro which was a small distance. A highly recommended stop it works well in combination with a visit to the Nation Mosque which is across the street. There is also a very well stocked bookstore and a cafe downstairs.
If you are interested in more on a similar topic I've also written a post on the Islamic Collection at the Louvre.