TORONTO— The Aga Khan Museum, scheduled to open in 2013, is the centerpiece in a new $300-million complex set within a landscaped park based on Islamic design principles and that will also include a new Ismaili Center. The museum will showcase treasures from the Aga Khan’s collection of outstanding works of art drawn from all over the Islamic world, while the Ismaili Center will provide a social, educational, and religious focal point for Toronto’s 30,000-strong Ismaili community.
In a foundation ceremony attended by almost 1,000 people, the Aga Khan was joined by Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper, who granted honorary Canadian citizenship to him. The event also marked the unveiling of the design and layout of the new museum complex, which will be built on a seven-hectare site in the Don Mills area of Toronto. The Aga Khan, spiritual leader to 15 million Ismaili Muslims worldwide, has repeatedly affirmed his belief that art and culture should serve as platforms of understanding between cultures.
Designed by Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki, the museum will include a large permanent gallery housing works of art from the collection acquired over the years by the Aga Khan and his family, as well as extensive exhibition spaces to accommodate temporary shows, a 350-seat auditorium, a reference library, multimedia center, classrooms, and workshop spaces. It will have a defined educational vocation, covering different periods and geographic areas of the Muslim world, with a focus on their preservation and display, alongside further collecting and research.
The construction of the museum in North America represents a blow for London, which lost out to Paris 30 years ago in the race to be the venue for what is now l’Institut du Monde Arabe. The British capital has now missed the boat again, despite being the frontrunner in the early years of the project, which started life over a decade ago. The choice of Canada generally, and Toronto specifically, as the location for the new museum has raised some eyebrows, something the Aga Khan was eager to address in his foundation ceremony speech. Citing the context of “Canada’s pluralism… and historic welcome to displaced Ismailis in the 1970s and later,” he drew particular attention to the values he believes that Ismailis share with Canadians. Perhaps equally pertinent is Toronto’s location: 50 million potential museum visitors live within a two-hour journey of the city, which is North America’s fifth largest.
Members of the Aga Khan’s family have long been recognized as important collectors of Islamic art, none more so than the late Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan. On permanent display in the new museum will be a replica of the Bellerive room in Prince Sadruddin’s home in Geneva, as well as up to 200 flagship pieces from the collection. The Aga Khan Trust for Culture‘s director-general, Luis Monreal, explained that while the acquisition of works of art for the museum collection will continue, there would not be an unbridled shopping spree as undertaken in recent years by some museums in the Middle East. Pending construction of the new museum, objects from the collection will continue to be featured in a series of traveling exhibitions, with the next show scheduled to open in Istanbul’s Sakip Sabanci Museum in October.
via Art Info