V&A exhibition of Islamic art to tour Russia

13 May 2014
Text Nadia Beard

London’s V&A museum will go on tour in Russia with an exhibition of Islamic art featuring ten artists and designers that were shortlisted for its international art award, the Jameel Prize. The prize is awarded biannually for contemporary designers and artists inspired by Islamic traditions in art, craft and design in order to widen global understanding of Islamic culture in the modern world.

The exhibition, at the Hermitage-Kazan Exhibition Centre in the Republic of Tatarstan, comprises more than 20 artworks including Arabic typography and calligraphy, video installations and mosque-inspired fashion, all of which fuse contemporary and Islamic design.

Azerbaijani sculptor Faig Ahmed, one of the participants of the show, told The Calvert Journal: “I am certain that artworks focusing on Islamic traditions will definitely act as a cultural exchange and increase cultural understanding of Islamic art in Russia. I think that through the prism of art, people can understand foreign cultures better. It’s a multinational language.”

With a long history of Islam in Tatarstan, the cultural ties between this exhibition and its host city were noted by another of the participants as particularly important. Lebanese furniture designer Nada Debs said: “I think the fact that my Concrete Carpet is being exhibited in the place from where my inspiration originates is fantastic and really great for the community of Kazan.”

Both artists touched on the ongoing political instability in Russia, with Debs noting: “Having a touring exhibition from the V&A at this difficult time diverts one’s focus from unstable times to a more cultural and educational focus. I really hope this will make a difference to people.” Ahmed added: “Recent political events have not influenced me or my art yet, but I think they will have a big impact on the art of Russia and Ukraine themselves.”

The exhibition will be at the Hermitage-Kazan Exhibition Centre until 17 August, after which it will move to the Moscow’s Manege exhibition hall between 10 October to 23 November.