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Exhibition of Islamic art on display at the University of York

Posted on 14 December 2023

An exhibition of Islamic art spanning one thousand years has gone on display at the University’s Borthwick Centre for Archives.

A fragment of a Mamluk illuminated tafsir manuscript page. Possibly made in Egypt around the 15th century. Image Credit: Paul Shields, University of York.

The exhibition of ceramics, paintings, artefacts and photographs marks the launch of a new Masters in Islamic Art and Cultures.

The artefacts in the exhibition date from the 9th to the 19th centuries and come from lands ruled by muslim dynasties from Spain in the west to India in the east.  


Highlights include ancient coins with ornate calligraphy and vibrantly coloured fragments of ceramics painted with figures and geometric patterns. 

Curators of the exhibition, Dr Richard McClary from the Department of History of Art and Helena Cox, have divided the exhibition into three main themes, and it gives people a chance to see Islamic artefacts in York for the first time. 

“The collection allows students, and now the wider public, to see the true scale, colour and intricacies of these unique artefacts for themselves.” 

“My love of Islamic art and architecture started when I visited Istanbul with my dad as a teenager. I had never seen anything like the huge, open, light-filled space in the great Ottoman mosques. I hope this exhibition can give visitors a sense of the wonders of art in the Islamic world.”

Rich culture

Dr McClary also hopes the exhibition will reach out to the Muslim community in Yorkshire and further afield. “We want people to know that their rich culture is appreciated, not just in the world where the material originated, but also here in the UK”, he added. 

The new Masters in Islamic Art and Cultures includes what is currently the only specialist graduate module on Islamic ceramics taught in the U.K, offering students the opportunity to examine the ways in which ceramics are used across the Islamic world and its many traditions.

The launch of the Masters was made possible by the donations of books on Islamic art and architecture to the University of York Library by experts in Islamic art  Professor Robert Hillenbrand and Dr George Michell.


Further information:

The “Arts of the Islamic World” exhibition is open at the Borthwick Institute for Archives, Monday to Friday between the hours of 10 am and 4pm until June 2024.

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