The Museum’s collection of art of the Islamic worlds encompasses the diverse artistic traditions of Islamic lands. The long-term goal is to reflect the regional, chronological, and material diversity of these traditions from the earliest period to the present day.

In 2007, the Museum launched the Art of the Islamic Worlds Initiative, making a commitment to collect, exhibit, and interpret art from the Islamic worlds. The focused collection continues to develop, with an emphasis on quality and rarity. In addition, the Museum presents thematic exhibitions and a wide range of related public programs and lectures.

In 2013, the Museum embarked on a landmark partnership with the Kuwait-based cultural institution Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah (DAI) and the privately held al-Sabah Collection, one of the greatest collections of Islamic art in the world. The debut presentation at the MFAH featured 67 objects ranging from carpets and architectural fragments to exquisite ceramics, metalwork, jewelry, scientific instruments, and manuscripts.

In 2015, an expanded installation more than tripled the display, presenting a comprehensive range of Islamic art. At the same time, two new galleries dedicated to the Museum’s collection opened, reinforcing the MFAH as a premier location for the exhibition and interpretation of art of the Islamic worlds.


Collecting Areas

Starting in the 7th century, the religion of Islam expanded from the Arabian Peninsula over a large territory stretching from Spain to Southeast Asia. The Museum’s collection includes examples of sacred and secular art. Many of the objects demonstrate the exchange of decorative motifs such as geometric patterns or vegetal motifs, and the importance of the art of the word. Among the most significant acquisitions have been a 12th-century bronze incense burner from Iran in the form of a stylized feline figure; a superb, elaborately illuminated 14th-century Qur’an from Morocco; and a remarkable, early-16th-century tondino made in Iznik, Turkey, then the center of production for one of the most distinctive types of ceramics in the Islamic world.

Exhibitions

For information about past MFAH exhibitions, search the exhibitions archive database.

Publications

  • Arts of Islamic Lands: Selections from the al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait
  • Gifts of the Sultan: The Arts of Giving at the Islamic Courts
  • Traces of the Calligrapher: Islamic Calligraphy in Practice, c. 1600–1900
  • Treasury of the World: Jewelled Arts of India in the Age of the Mughals
  • Writing the Word of God: Calligraphy and the Qur’an

Patron Group

Friends of the Art of the Islamic Worlds
All proceeds raised by Friends of the Art of the Islamic Worlds support the initiatives of the Art of the Islamic Worlds department, which include the augmentation of the Museum’s holdings; educational programming; and the expansion of awareness in the community. For example, in 2011, funds raised by this group allowed the Museum to purchase a 9th-century Qur’anic folio from Tunisia. Members enjoy invitations to lectures by leading curators and collectors; unique private events; guided tours of Islamic art exhibitions; exclusive travel opportunities; and expert advice on building private collections. The group also holds a biennial gala celebrating art and culture of the Islamic worlds that draws guests from across the globe.
Join Friends of the Art of the Islamic Worlds

The MFAH Collections

To explore all of the Museum’s works of art, search the collection.