Queens College is positioning itself to become a mecca for art and art history in the Arab World. The college recently announced it would take ownership of an online Islamic art museum, thanks to generous donations from big names in the Asian art world: the London-based shopping mall magnate Nasser Khalili and the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation.
The interactive online museum, “Arts of the Islamic World,” contains over 100 images and descriptions of Islamic art objects including ceramics, masks, rugs and illuminated manuscripts.
While some objects in the online museum came from the Brooklyn Museum’s collection, most of the work on view is from Khalili's private collection. He holds one of the largest and most comprehensive private collections of Islamic art, Japanese Meiji-era art, and even Swedish textiles in the world. The Iranian native is an alumnus of Queens College.
The college said it hoped to continue to expand the Web collection by forging partnerships with the Freer-Sackler Asian art museums in Washington D.C., as well as other Islamic art collections around the world. The college also said it sought to eventually create a major Center for Middle Eastern Studies in the city’s most diverse borough.
“We started realizing that we had quite a number of students from Middle Eastern countries,” said Queens College Vice President Sue Henderson. “And the Middle East is an area in which we could really expand.”
The online museum is part of that expansion plan, and according to Amy Landau, who curates Middle Eastern Art for The Walters Museum in Baltimore, Queens College isn't the only museum investing in online exhibits.
“We’ve done the same thing with our illuminated manuscripts,” said Landau.
She said that providing wide public access to art is especially important for Middle Eastern and Islamic collections.
“The more images and positive images, accurate images, you have regarding Islamic art and culture, the more they counteract the negative perceptions that have been in Western media about the Islamic world,” she said.
Queens College already is home to a Greek and Byzantine Center, a Korean Studies Center and an Irish Studies Center. There's no cost to browse the university's Arts of the Islamic World collection.