A Falcon’s Eye: Tribute to Sheikh Saoud Al Thani opens at the Museum of Islamic Art
On August 2, 2020, the Museum of Islamic Art opened A Falcon’s Eye: Tribute to Sheikh Saoud Al Thani, a special exhibition featuring extraordinary artworks and artifacts acquired by Sheikh Saoud Al Thani (1966 – 2014), both as a passionate individual collector and on behalf of the State of Qatar. Sheikh Saoud served as Chairman for Qatar’s National Council for Culture, Arts and Heritage from 1997 through 2005. His knowledge and interests ranged from wildlife preservation to the history of photography, from Egyptology to modern architecture, and from the exquisite gems and jewelry of the Arabian Gulf and Mughal India to contemporary art.
A Falcon’s Eye, running until April 10, 2021, features approximately 300 objects, some of which have never before been exhibited to the public. They range in date from the prehistoric Holocene period to the early 2000s and in geography from South America and Europe to the Arabian Gulf and China. These sweeping displays are presented in distinct, thematic groups reminiscent of the “cabinets of curiosities” or Wunderkammer that individual collectors assembled in the centuries before the first modern museums were established, and that fascinated Sheikh Saoud.
The exhibition fills the Museum of Islamic Art’s entire first-floor temporary exhibition space, which will be named in honor of Sheikh Saoud, and extends into the fourth-floor galleries and balcony. A small selection of objects has also been incorporated into the galleries as part of the Museum of Islamic Art’s permanent collection.
Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Chairperson of Qatar Museums, said, “In the years before Qatar Museums was founded, Sheikh Saoud combined his intense, wide-ranging personal curiosity and passion for collecting with a public-spirited dedication to developing the cultural and educational resources of the State of Qatar. Through his remarkable achievements, he left an invaluable legacy to his nation. Qatar Museums is pleased to commemorate Sheikh Saoud with this dazzling exhibition.”
Dr. Julia Gonnella, Director of the Museum of Islamic Art, said, “It is deeply satisfying to present A Falcon’s Eye at this museum, not only because Sheikh Saoud was so instrumental in assembling QM’s holdings but because his driving passion as a collector was so closely allied with the spiritual instinct. He was animated by a sense of wonder at the natural world and the endless variety of human creativity. We hope the visitors to our exhibition will share in that spiritual thrill.”
Principal sections of the exhibition, and some of their highlights, include:
- A Passion for Nature: a complete skeleton of a Glyptodon (a large, heavily armored prehistoric mammal), the skeleton of a Pteranodon, a first edition of John James Audubon’s Birds of America, volumes of the Thesaurus of the 18th-century Dutch naturalist and collector Albertus Seba, geological specimens including a giant amethyst, photographs by Richard Avedon of Sheikh Saoud and the wildlife at his Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation.
- A Passion for Egyptology: sculptures depicting the Pharaoh Akhenaten and his relatives during his reign at Tell el Amarna, a sarcophagus and mummy, funerary objects, works by the founder of modern Egyptology Jean-François Champollion, paintings and drawings of Egypt by the 19th-century British artist David Roberts.
- A Passion for Antique Worlds: exceptional works from the pre-Islamic Arabian Peninsula, pre-Columbia South America, and ancient Bactria, Greece, Rome and Assyria, including mosaic, glass, textiles, and sculptures in precious metals and stones
- A Passion for Gold and Jewelry: gold from ancient Assyria and pre-Columbian South America, and gems of Mughal India.
- At the Table of the Collector: rare masterpiece of ceramic from 16th-century France from the legendary collection of the Comtesse de Béhague, Orientalist paintings by artists including Ludwig Deutsch (1855-1935) and Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904), modern architectural projects for Doha commissioned by Sheikh Saoud, a watercolor portrait of Sheikh Saoud by David Hockney, 2002.
- A Passion for Photography: selections from one of the largest collection of photographs and cameras in the world, ranging from the 1830s to the present, featuring rare historic equipment, vintage prints of masterpieces of photography, and a suite of photographs of Sheikh Saoud by François-Marie Banier.
- A Falcon’s Eye: Tribute to Sheikh Saoud Al Thani is curated by Dr. Hubert Bari (Qatar Museums Curatorial Consultant) and Dr. Mounia Chekhab-Abudaya (MIA’s Curator for North Africa and Iberia).
Hours, Tickets and Visitor Guidelines
The Museum of Islamic Art is open from Sunday through Thursday, between the hours of 9:00 am 3:00 pm. Guests will be able to visit the MIA’s permanent collection (in addition to A Falcon’s Eye in the Temporary exhibition space) and gift shop. The MIA Café will offer minimal service from Saturday through to Thursday, and IDAM will operate at limited capacity for dinner service.
In keeping with the guidelines set by the Ministry of Public Health, a limited number of visitors and staff will be allowed in the museum at a time. Visitors will be required to reserve tickets in advance on the Qatar Museums website: https://visit.qm.org.qa
Upon arrival visitors will be required to present a “green” health status on the Ehteraz virus-tracing app. Masks are required for all visitors (12 years of age and older). Each person will also be checked for a normal temperature reading at the entrance. Visitors who have a temperature or do not have a mask will not be allowed into the Museum of Islamic Art.
Hand sanitizer stations will be placed throughout the location encouraging visitors to keep their hands clean. Signage reminding visitors to keep a safe distance from other visitors will also be visible on-site. Cloakrooms will be unavailable during this period. In addition, interactive features such as touchscreens will be temporarily removed, and gallery guides will be offered online only.
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