Posted on October 10, 2006

Venice Fair Celebrates Islamic Civilization

Hadi Yahmid, IOL, October 8, 2006

Rome — Amid rising Islamophobia in the West, the Italian city of Venice is playing host to an exhibition celebrating Islam contribution to Western civilization and arts

“The exhibition highlights cross-fertilization between the West and Islam to counter war mongering clichés that now make international headlines,” Marie George Nida, an exhibition organizer, told Sunday, October 8.

Organized by the Paris-based Arab World Institute (IMA) in partnership with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the exhibition, titled “Venise et l’Orient”, was inaugurated in October 3 and will run through February 18.

“The fair showcases how the Islamic civilization has left its indelible mark on the West in the Middle Ages,” added Nida.

Potteries, oil paintings, carpets, coins, silver plates and wooden items that were brought to Vince during the Middle Ages stand as a poignant symbol of cultural exchange between Europe and the Ottoman Empire.

The fair comes as the West and the Muslim world are experiencing some of the worst periods of their relation in recent history.

Pope Benedict XVI triggered an international controversy by linking Islam with violence by quoting a Byzantine emperor at a lecture in his native Germany.

Danish state TV on Friday, October 6, aired amateur video footage showing a number of members of the youth wing of the anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party (DPP) at a summer camp in August, drinking, singing and engaging in a competition to draw humiliating images of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).

In September last year Danish daily Jyllands-Posten published cartoons, including one showing the Prophet Muhammad with a bomb in his turban, proving Muslim condemnation from all the world over and sparking protests early this year in which more than 50 people died in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.


The 250 objects on display show how the Islamic civilization became a source of inspiration for the Venetians.

A large section of the exhibition shows how the Venetians were inspired by the Mamelouks and Ottomans.

“It is obvious that the art of oil painting, one of the Venetian civilization’s landmarks, was inspired by the East,” Nida said.

Qura’nic verses inscribed on glass lamps and ceramic plates made in Venice and sold in the East shows how impressed Europe was by the Islamic calligraphy.

The fair’s logo is a computerized photo of the masterpiece painting of Venetian artist Gentile Bellini, showing the Ottoman Sultan Mohammad II face-to-face with the Venetian duke Giovanni Mocenigo.

As part of efforts to recognize Islamic contribution to human civilization, a new wing of Islamic art is to be inaugurated in the Louvre museum in 2009.

The long-awaited section in the world’s largest museum will showcase up to 10,000 pieces, one of the greatest concentrations of Islamic art in existence.

Saudi billionaire Prince Al-Walid bin Talal has donated 17 million euros to construct the section.

The New York-based Metropolitan Museum of Arts and the British Museum also have departments of Islamic art.