Back to Exhibitions

August 31, 2013–April 27, 2014

Location: Bloch Building, Gallery L8
Admission is FREE

What is Islamic Art? How do contemporary artists respond to Islamic art and culture in their own work? This exhibition will explore these questions through a series visual conversations that make connections across cultures, geography and time.

The installation will juxtapose historical objects and architecture with works by contemporary artists that employ traditional Islamic styles, materials and subject matter as their source. Framed beneath the Museum's stunning 17th century Persian mosaic arch, visitors will see how contemporary artists are drawing upon their cultural and visual past to explore personal, political, and aesthetic concerns.

The artistic achievements of traditional Islamic art will be represented by works in the Nelson-Atkins permanent collection, including examples of calligraphy, ceramics, paintings, carpets and architectural forms. Contemporary art works include sculpture, video, photography, paintings, ceramics and digital collage, by internationally recognized artists such as: Shahzia Sikander and Rashid Rana.

Echoes is part of a city–wide collaborative project focusing on Islamic art and culture, featuring exhibitions, artists' residencies and public programming at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Kansas City Artists Coalition, and the Kansas City Public Library

Contemporary Artists Represented in the Exhibition

Hamra Abbas (b. 1976) Pakistani, living and working in Somerville, Massachusetts
Bashir Ahmed (b. 1954) Pakistani, living and working in Lahore, Pakistan
Asheer Akram (b. 1984) American, living and working in Kansas City, Missouri
Nasser Al Salem (b. 1984) Saudi Arabian, living and working in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Gohar Dashti (b. 1980) Iranian, living and working in Berlin, Germany and Iran
Ayesha Jatoi (b. 1979) Pakistani, living and working in Lahore, Pakistan
Hayv Kahraman (b. 1981) Iraqi, living and working in Oakland, California
Ahmed Mater (b. 1979) Saudi Arabian, living and working in Abha, Saudi Arabia
Nasreen Mohamedi (1937–1990), Indian, lived and worked in Mumbai and Baroda, India
Shirin Neshat (b. 1957) Iranian, living and working in New York, New York
Rashid Rana (b. 1968) Pakistani, living and working in Lahore, Pakistan
Shahzia Sikander (b. 1969) Pakistani, living and working in New York, New York


Ahmed Mater, Saudi Arabian, b. 1979. Illumination Waaf, 2013. Gold leaf, Chinese ink and printing on archival Arches paper. Photo courtesy of Athr Gallery

Illuminations: Ahmed Mater

Gallery 203
Saudi artist Ahmed Mater's large paintings combine the arts of the traditional Islamic book with arresting modern imagery based upon human x-rays. In Mater's Diptych, ornamental borders, round chapter markers and inscriptions frame two silhouetted figures, created through x-ray photography. A practicing doctor as well as an artist, Mater's work plays upon various ideas of illumination: the illumination of manuscripts, the illumination of the inner body based upon modern science and the illumination of the soul through the knowledge transmitted through tradition and science.

Mosaic Arch


Visitors to Echoes: Islamic Art and Contemporary Artists will enter the Project Space gallery beneath a newly restored Persian mosaic arch. The mosaic, which depicts lush floral imagery amidst scrolling vines, would have adorned a grand entrance portal or iwan in or near the city of Isfahan, the capital city of the Safavid Dynasty under Shah Abbas I (r. 1587-1629).


Bowl, Iran, late 12th–early 13th century. Fritware with opaque turquoise glaze and over-painted decoration. 35-31/4.

Hamra Abbas, b. 1976. Paper Plates, 2008. Paper collage. 126.2012.A-G.


Abd Allah Musawwir , Persian , act. mid-16th century. The Meeting of the Theologians, 1540-1550. Opaque watercolor and gold on paper. Purchase: William Rockhill Nelson Trust, 43-5

Shahzia Sikander, Pakistani, b. 1969. The Last Post (detail), 2010. HD video animation with Surround Sound 5.1. Image provided courtesy of the artist.

Shirin Neshat, Iranian, b. 1957. Stories of Martydom (detail), 1994. Black and white RC print and ink. Photo by permission of the artist and lender.

Programs and Events

Family Festival
Under Arabian Skies
A Celebration of Art, Science and Astronomy from the Islamic World
Saturday, September 21
5–9 p.m.
Find out More
Join us for a special after-hours celebration of Islamic art, the fall equinox and more!

Explore Islamic Arts
Sunday, October 27
1–4 p.m.
Ford Learning Center
Discover the beauty and ingenuity of traditional Islamic Arts. Step into the museum's studios to discover ceramics, textiles, calligraphy and pattern-making through demonstrations and hands-on activities. Fun for all ages.
Find out More

National Symposium–Save the Date!
Friday, March 7 & Saturday, March 8, 2014
Invited artists and scholars come to Kansas City to investigate issues related to the practice and reception of Islamic arts. Topics include the importance of design, the written word and transmission of style. Ticket required.

Look for exciting related events hosted by our community partners:

Islamic Exchange
August 9–September 21 at Kansas City Artists Coalition. kansascityartistscoalition.org.

Professor Ali Asani, Harvard University
Lecture on Islamic religion and contemporary culture
October 29 at 6:30 p.m.
Kansas City Public Library, Plaza Branch.
NEH grant recipient of Muslim Journeys Bookshelf, kclibrary.org.

The Friends of Chamber Music presents
Hespèrion XXI and Jordi Savall Blood and Honey: The Cycles of Life in the Mosaic of the Balkan Peoples under the Ottoman Empire
October 31 at 8 p.m., Lecture at 7 p.m., Folly Theater. chambermusic.org or 816.561.9999


Photo of Asheer Akram: Photo by Emily Smith

The Pakistani Cargo Truck Initiative:
Asheer Akram

Outside, north side of the Bloch Building
Local artist Asheer Akram debuts his American interpretation of the brightly adorned commercial trucks that are an iconic fixture of modern Pakistan. Through his residency at Belger Crane Yard Studios, the support of Kickstarter grant funders and in collaboration with other Midwestern and Pakistani artists, Akram brings the Pakistani cargo truck to Kansas City. Parked at the entrance to the Bloch Building, Akram's truck combines traditional and contemporary Pakistani motifs and design elements with an American aesthetic to create a completely original, functional and culturally diverse work of art.

Pakistani Cargo Truck Web Cam

Plan your visit, check to see if the Truck is here!

Resource Guide

Click here for a bibliography of titles about Islamic art. Resources are on display in the Spencer Art Reference Library Reading Room - Free and Open to all who are interested in learning about the visual arts. Come and explore!
     August 31, 2013–April 27, 2014