I wonder if Canadians understand what a huge compliment was paid to this country when the Aga Khan Development Network, to which the museum belongs, decided to locate the new institution here and move the collection, which had been housed in Geneva and London, to Toronto.
The decision is testament to the gratitude Ismailis feel toward Canada for welcoming them as immigrants after many were driven from East Africa in the 1970s.
– Kate Taylor, The Globe and Mail
Landscape architect Vladimir Djurovic has designed a serene central space of reflecting pools and wide gravel pathways with narrow treed alleyways at its sides; the edges of the site are occupied by more conventional parkland with grass and benches.
It’s a beautiful achievement, but it took its inspiration from famed Islamic gardens in India and Spain, – that is, from warmer climates.
The chief delight of the development is the museum’s permanent collection, a selection of historic Islamic art drawn from the family holdings of the Aga Khan, the European billionaire businessman and noted humanitarian who is the 49th hereditary leader of the Ismaili Muslim community. The collection includes magnificent pieces of Persian ceramics dating back as early as the 10th century, a selection of fine Indian miniatures from the 1500s and 1600s and a few rare Asian robes that had miraculously survived for centuries, as well as illuminated copies of the Quran, decorated tiles and handwoven rugs.
The museum has good international connections and also offers first-rate temporary exhibitions: It started out last September with an impressive show of current Pakistani art that dispelled any notion this institution was not attuned to living culture. Right now, it has a nice collection of Mughal miniatures and paintings on loan from Oxford University’s Ashmolean Museum and, in June, thanks to a loan from New York’s Metropolitan Museum, it is opening a show of historical Western paintings that includes images of Asian carpets.
Since the museum opened last September, 85,000 people have visited: that’s a strong showing, several times the number that currently visit the downtown Gardiner Museum of ceramic arts across the street from the ROM, but you would expect a lot of interest in a first year.
By KATE TAYLOR for The Globe and Mail.
Published Thursday, May. 28 2015