In the Wake of Travel Ban, Islamic Art Institution Plans its First Show

The museum opens a temporary location on May 4 in Little Italy.

Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, Untitled (2015). Courtesy of the Institute of Arab and Islamic Art.

The Institute of Arab and Islamic Art (IAIA), New York’s newest arts space, has not yet found a permanent home. But that won’t stop it from moving ahead with its first exhibition. The institute is opening to the public on May 4 in Little Italy with a show of work by four contemporary women artists. The space will serve as a temporary location while the institute searches for a permanent headquarters in New York.

In the works since 2014, IAIA is the brainchild of Qatar’s Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Al-Thani. The project—dedicated to work by artists from the Arab and Islamic worlds—has taken on new significance following President Trump’s ill-fated travel ban, which targeted individuals from six majority-Muslim countries and threatened to dramatically suppress cultural and academic exchange.

“We have founded IAIA to be a beacon to challenge social misconceptions and artistic stereotypes,” Al-Thani says in a statement. A non-collecting institution, IAIA will present four exhibitions in 2017. The institute also plans to host a residency program and educational talks.

Dana Awartani, Abjad Hawaz Series (2016). Courtesy of the artist.

Dana Awartani, Abjad Hawaz Series (2016). Courtesy of the artist.

The IAIA will launch with a show of work by four women artists from Saudi Arabia, Iran, India, and Pakistan. Titled “EXHIBITION 1,” the show includes works on paper and prints by Dana Awartani, Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, Zarina Hashmi, and Nasreen Mohamedi. (New York audiences may already be familiar with some of these names: Farmanfarmaian and Hashmi have had solo exhibitions at the Guggenheim Museum in recent years, and a show of work by Mohamedi inaugurated the Met Breuer last year.)

Despite hailing from different places, all four artists have been inspired by growing up alongside Islamic architecture, and the show will explore the different ways they have incorporated it into their work. The exact location and opening date of IAIA’s permanent space is not yet confirmed, a spokeswoman says.

The downtown institution will open its temporary space ahead of a long-delayed so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” community center near the World Trade Center. Following anti-Islamic protests, the project was re-envisioned last year as a luxury condo building that will house a three-floor museum of Islamic culture and religion.

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