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Oldest Iranian carpet centerpiece of new London art gallery


London, July 19, IRNA-An Islamic art gallery which opened in London on Tuesday is showcasing the world's oldest carpet made in Iran in 1539.

The Ardebil carpet, commissioned by Shah Tahmasp for a shrine in northwest Iran, is the centerpiece of the Jameel Art Gallery at the Victoria and Albert Museum, which houses some of the world's finest collections of Islamic art.

Opening the gallery, heir to the British throne Prince Charles said that the collection "helps to demonstrate the universal values that underlie the arts of the great traditions and faiths of the world, between the Islamic world and its neighbors in Asia and Europe."

The museum, named after Britain's longest-serving monarch and her husband, has recognized the importance of Islamic art and design since its was founded over 150 years ago, he said.

The new gallery, which has transformed the museum's entrance, revolves around the impressive 10.5m x 5m Ardebil carpet, with its whole surface covered by a single unified design.

Previously displayed on a dark wall behind the plate glass in the museum for the last half century, the historically important carpet now lies flat on the ground in a unique case with a floating canopy.

The dominant color of midnight blue on the walls of the gallery has been chosen to set off exhibits such as metal works and to reflect the use of pigments on many of the ceramics, in addition to being the central ground color of the Ardebil masterpiece.

Also speaking at the opening of the gallery, Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain Mohammad Abdul Bari said that art in Islam has an illustrious history.

Throughout the ages, Bari said, it has "exuded the confidence of a community and its desire to contribute something to collective human history."

"While we insist much on the importance of dialogue as a means of overcoming obstacles between communities and cultures that are different, we should not forget the effective role art can play as a means of communication," he said.

The gallery, which took 18 months in the making, also includes the sword of Shah Tahmasp, which is inscribed with a long, elegant inscription from the Holy Quran on the subject of `Victory'.

Also on display is the Isfahan cope, a unique Church vestment made in the southern Iranian city in the 17th century, and includes both Islamic elements such as scrollwork motifs as well as Christian iconography.

To mark the opening of the gallery, a work was commissioned entitled `Variations on the Hexagon' by Iranian contemporary artist Monir Farmanfarmaian.

Her startling modernist artwork uniquely adopts a combination of mirror mosaic, Islamic geometric patterns, discovered objects and reserve-glass paintings.

To celebrate the opening, three weekends on the theme of Middle Eastern culture are being arranged that will include a Persian picnic with poetry, music and perfume.

The Persian picnic, scheduled in September, has been organized in cooperation with Magic of Persia to allow visitors to listen to traditional storytelling and to view activities such as designing and decorating of Persian carpets and painting of Persian miniature.

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