Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sean Rocha on Peter Schjeldahl
Peter Schjeldahl wanders blind through the Met’s new Islamic wing.

Can Schjeldahl be unaware how profoundly this “Renaissance wedding” was shaped by Islamic life, language, thought and design even as Europe stood apart from Islam as a religion? For reasons of geographic proximity, political competition, and economic trade there is no culture on earth with which Christendom has engaged more deeply, for more centuries, with greater exchange in both directions than with the Islamic world. Indeed, a very great part of what we know about the Greek philosophy we regard as the foundation of Western culture is through Arab translations and exegesis, with figures like Averroes and Avicenna serving as the bridge between us and Aristotle. This is one way among many in which, from Moorish architecture in Spain in the west of Europe through southern Italy to Constantinople/Istanbul in the east, centuries of cohabitation have left what is European inextricable from what is Islamic. Artistically, this transmission can be seen in everything from porcelain, carpets and illuminated manuscripts to mosaics and Mudejar architecture. There are differences, to be sure, just as there are differences between Greek and Roman, but an art critic’s role is to tease out the influences and references within a work — to find those points of exchange — not to retreat into some mythical idea of isolated creation.

Sean’s articles and photographs have appeared in The New York Times, Travel + Leisure, New York magazine, Condé Nast Traveler, Slate, and The Cairo Times. In addition, he is the correspondent and resident voyageur for Le Monde d’Hermès, wandering the globe to capture in words and images the unique view on the world of the French luxury house Hermès.
I'll take what cosmopolitanism I can, where can I get it.

Link from Issandr El Amrani, Arabist

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