Interest in Islamic Art has risen in recent decades worldwide, especially in the Arab world where a number of spectacular museums have opened recently. Many conferences and publications have also shed new light on Islamic art’s nature, meaning, scope, diversity, aesthetics, interpretations and historical development.
Australia has rarely featured in this global feast. When it has, geographic remoteness and its proximity to Southeast Asia have characterised its representations. From this viewpoint, Australia – seen as a western outpost – offers no possibility of endogenous development of Islamic art, nor an active role in the orientalist formation of its discourse. Lying on the receiving rather than producing end, Australia has been seen as belonging to the regional sphere of Southeast Asian art, also neglected until recently in Islamic art circles. While remoteness and marginality might indeed dictate how Islamic art in Australia appears from a global perspective, a refocused local perspective can reveal a complex, dynamic and centrally connected hub of activities.
If we consider Islamic art in Australia in relation to four key aspects – production, collection, expertise and audience – we can sidestep the centre-periphery theoretical model and shed light on local resources, distinctive collections, active networks, curatorial innovations, educational initiatives and future prospects.
In this special issue of TAASA Review, a number of Australian experts in Islamic art, architecture and intellectual history, both established scholars and aspiring young researchers, have attempted to lay the foundations for more concerted efforts to build a unique Australian perspective on Islamic art.
Production of Islamic art in Australia has a very short history, only recently have the works of contemporary Muslim artists begun to receive international attention. Yet this local production allows us to inquire about the socio-political, religious and aesthetic sources of ideas, as well as connections to place and culture. How do contemporary Australian Muslim artists view and interpret traditional Islamic art, and connect to Islam and its past? How do they define their contemporary Islamic identity within the Australian multicultural context? What common issues and concerns do they raise through their works? How do they contribute to understanding Islamic modernity? And how is contemporary Islamic art constructed, staged and received in Australia and abroad? The collection of Islamic art by Australian individuals and institutions goes back to the early 20th century. Collections contribute to the enhancement of Australia’s multicultural identity and give visual and material presence to Islamic culture. They attract researchers, scholars, artists and curators, and enable us to inquire about material, cultural and intellectual connections with the Islamic world. What are the nature and extent of Islamic art collections in Australia? What cultural and intellectual relationships do they establish with the Islamic world? What kinds of exhibitions do they enable? What research and educational scope do they offer? And what level of accessibility is in place for students, experts and the wider public?
Australia has a small circle of Islamic art experts that includes well-established and internationally recognised academics and curators. The pool of young trainees/ students who aspire to leading roles in the field is much smaller. The future of Islamic art study and curatorship in Australia is currently rather bleak: there are no fully established programs of Islamic art history and curatorship in Australian universities with only isolated courses at ANU, CSU and SU, and art institutions offer hardly any opportunities for young trainees to be exposed to existing practises and expertise.
Who are the leading academics and curators of Islamic art in Australia and what are their areas of expertise? How do their research
and areas of expertise profile Islamic art in Australia? What are their cultural connections with the Islamic world? And what resources are available to support and promote current expertise in Islamic art in Australia?
Australia is home to growing Muslim communities: over 600,000 people (2.6% of total population) self-identify with various forms of Islam. It is the second largest religious grouping in Australia after Christianity (61.1%). But are Muslims the main target audience of Islamic art in Australia? No, of course: the wider Australian public is the target audience. Who are the main supporters of Islamic art in Australia? What motivates them? And since many Muslims tend to see religious belief as inseparable from art, how should the relationship between Muslim communities and Islamic art be conceived, experienced and managed? How can Islamic art enable a stronger and wider cultural interaction with Islam in Australia?
This TAASA Review issue is one attempt to address some of the issues raised above - it will hopefully shine a spotlight on the evolving engagement with Islamic art in Australia and stimulate further discussion.
3 EDITORIAL - Samer Akkach, Guest Editor
4 FROM OBJECT TO ARTIST: THE (R)EVOLUTION OF ISLAMIC ART IN AUSTRALIA - Nur Shkembi
7 BEYOND CENTRE AND PERIPHERY: ISLAMIC ART IN SYDNEY - Peyvand Firouzeh
9 PICTURING THE IMPERIAL MUGHAL ‘PERFECT HUNTER’ - Shaha Parpia
10 ARTISTIC EXPRESSION IN NON-ARAB ISLAMIC CULTURES: VIEWS FROM INDONESIA - Virginia Hooker
13 NEW PERSPECTIVES ON THE TRINITARIAS CARPET IN THE COLLECTION OF THE NATIONAL GALLERY OF VICTORIA - Susan Scollay
16 THE QUESTION OF PERSPECTIVE IN ISLAMIC ART - Samer Akkach
18 THE GREEN CURTAIN: A PORTRAIT OF THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD - James Bennett
20 EGYPTIAN KHAYAMIYA IN REGIONAL AUSTRALIA - Samuel Bowker
22 FLOOR MOSAICS IN THE EARLY ISLAMIC LEVANT: THE FINAL FLOURISH OF AN ANCIENT ARTFORM - Ana Silkatcheva
24 TALISMANIC SHIRT: AN ISLAMIC ART OBJECT FROM THE ART GALLERY OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA - Sakina Nomanbhoy
26 THE CONTEMPORARY AUSTRALIAN MOSQUE - Perri Sparrnon
27 BOOK REVIEW: ILM: SCIENCE, RELIGION AND ART IN ISLAM - Melanie Cooper
28 RECENT TAASA ACTIVITIES
29 TAASA MEMBERS' DIARY: SEPTEMBER - NOVEMBER 2020
30 WHAT'S ON: SEPTEMBER - NOVEMBER 2020 Compiled by Gill Green
30 TAASA AGM