DMA hosts Cartier and Islamic Art: In Search of Modernity exhibition - GulfToday

DMA hosts Cartier and Islamic Art: In Search of Modernity exhibition


Head ornament, Cartier New York, 1924.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

The Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) is currently hosting the exhibition titled Cartier and Islamic Art: In Search of Modernity (May 14 – Sept. 18).

It is a major event, tracing inspirations from Islamic art and design, including from Louis Cartier’s exquisite collection of Persian and Indian art and the work of the designers of the Maison Cartier from the early 20th century to present day.

DMA is an art museum located in the Arts District of downtown Dallas, Texas, USA. Co-organised by DMA and the Musee des Arts Decoratifs, Paris, in collaboration with the Musee du Louvre and with the support of Maison Cartier, the exhibition brings together over 400 objects from the holdings of Cartier, the Musee des Arts Decoratifs (Paris), the Musee du Louvre, the Keir Collection of Islamic Art on loan to the Dallas Museum of Art, and other major international collections.

Through visual juxtapositions and new scholarly research, the show explores how Cartier’s designers adapted forms and techniques from Islamic art, architecture and jewellery, as well as materials from India, Iran and Arab lands, synthesising them into a recognisable, modern stylistic language, unique to the house of Cartier.

The US premiere in Dallas follows its presentation at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs, Paris (Oct. 21, 2021 – Feb. 20, 2022).

DMA 2  Bandeau from Cartier Paris, 1922.

“For over a century, Cartier and its designers have recognised and celebrated the inherent beauty and symbolic values found in Islamic art and architecture, weaving similar elements into their own designs,” said Dr. Agustin Arteaga, DMA’s Eugene McDermott Director.  “Focused through the lens of Islamic art, it reveals how the Maison migrates and manifests these styles over time, as well as how they are shaped by individual creativity,” said Sarah Schleuning, who co-curates the show. She is the Margot B. Perot Senior Curator of Decorative Arts and Design at DMA.

The exhibition explores the origins of Islamic influence on Cartier through the cultural context of Paris in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and the figure of Louis J. Cartier (1875–1942), a partner and eventual director of Cartier’s Paris branch, and a collector of Islamic art.  Louis encountered Islamic arts through various sources, including the major exhibitions of Islamic art in Paris in 1903 and 1912 at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs, which were held to inspire new forms of modern design, and a pivotal exhibition of masterpieces of Islamic art in Munich in 1910.

Paris was also a major marketplace for Islamic art and a gathering place of collectors. It was around this time that Cartier and his designers began to experiment with new modes of design, looking to Japanese textiles, Chinese jades, Indian jewellery and the arts and architecture of the Islamic world, to expand upon the “garland style” that had brought success to the house at the turn of the 20th century.

Louis’s own collection of Persian and Indian paintings, manuscripts, and other luxury objects — reconstructed in this exhibition for the first time in nearly 80 years — also served as inspiration for these new designs, and together these influences would be essential to the development of a new aesthetic called “style moderne” and later “Art Deco” at Cartier.

Bringing together over 400 objects from the DMA’s own holdings and other major international collections, Cartier and Islamic Art presents an opportunity to encounter not only a wide array of iconic Cartier objects, but also their original sources of inspiration.

DMA 3 Tiara, Cartier London, special order, 1936.

The exhibition showcases works of Cartier jewellery and luxury objects alongside historical photographs, design drawings, archival materials and works of Islamic art, including those displayed in the Paris and Munich exhibitions and in Louis’s own collection, as well as works bearing motifs that would become part of Cartier’s lexicon of forms.

Additionally, digital animations created by renowned studio Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS + R) offer insight into the creative process at the Maison, from an original source object to a motif, to its adaptation as a jewellery design, and finally to its execution in metal, stones and organic materials.

Objets d’art in display include a range from geometric to naturalistic forms and Chinese designs (cloud collars and interlocking shapes) that were naturalised in the Islamic lands under Mongol and Timurid rulers of the Middle East and India since the 13th century. The exhibition also touches on the material and technical sources of inspiration derived from Louis’s youngest brother Jacques’s travels to India and Bahrain in the early 20th century.

Discoveries gleaned from these travels spurred the use of novel colour combinations drawing from Islamic sources - one of the most distinctive aspects of the house’s early 20th-century designs.

The exhibition traces each of these stylistic developments, linking them to actual or probable Islamic source material and revealing the expertise of the jeweller’s eye in mediating forms and creating some of Cartier’s most renowned and recognisable styles today. Cartier and Islamic Art is co-curated by Dr. Heather Ecker, the former Marguerite S. Hoffman and Thomas W. Lentz Curator of Islamic and Medieval Art at the DMA; Evelyne Posseme, Chief Curator of Ancient and Modern Jewellery at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs, Paris; and Judith Henon, Curator and Deputy Director of the Department of Islamic Art at the Musee du Louvre, Paris.  The exhibition design is conceived by DS + R, which has created a contemporary display that offers enhanced opportunities for close looking and analysis of form. The Presenting Sponsor for the exhibition is PNC Bank.

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