About the collection
The collection contains works of art, cultural artefacts, and archaeological finds from Islamic peoples and societies that range in date from late antiquity to the last century. Its exhibits stem objects from an area that extends from the southern and eastern Mediterranean region and Spain across Anatolia, the Middle East and Central Asia all the way to India. In this way, the museum’s exhibitions interrelate, both geographically and culturally, to the displays of classical antiquities in the Antikensammlung and of ancient Near-Eastern art from the Vorderasiatisches Museum, also on show in the Pergamonmuseum. Visitors to the Pergamonmuseum can thus explore at length the art and cultural history of these regions spread over several millennia.
The tour through the Museum für Islamische Kunst’s collection is chronological and follows the successive dynasties of various epochs. The exhibition begins with the early Islamic period and the great empires of the first caliphs (7th to 10th century) that emerged against the wider backdrop of the pre-Islamic cultures of the ancient world and Iran. A high point from this period is the façade of the Mshatta desert palace. It is joined by stucco walls from homes and palaces from Samarra – the legendary Abbasid caliphate capital in the today’s Iraq and one of the largest cities in the world in its day. Seen together, these pieces of architecture create a unique survey of early Islamic history.
Objects from the Middle Period (11th to 15th century) include glazed prayer niches from Kashan (Iran) and Konya (Turkey), fine damascened inlay work on metal vessels, and the famous carved wooden ceiling from a domed tower in the Alhambra in Granada, with its entrancingly rich detail.
The famous Berlin collection of carpets, with its array of intensely luminous patterns, largely ranges in date from the early Modern Period (16th to 18th century). It was also in this period that the Aleppo Room was crafted. Its astonishingly ornate, painted wood panelling makes it an undoubted highlight in the collection.
The museum also presides over a specialist library of the most outstanding quality dedicated to Islamic art, archaeology, and material culture. The museum is furthermore internationally active as a research facility, cooperating with universities and museums, particularly in regions from where the objects in its collection originate.
In the difficult climate currently surrounding the public discourse on Islam, the Museum für Islamische Kunst sees itself as a mediator of a culture of great sophistication. Its exhibitions uncover the history of other cultures, something which in turn helps foster a better understanding of the present. This lends the collection its sharp political relevance, both within Germany and abroad, as a cultural storehouse for Islamic societies and peoples.
The first ever department of Islamic art to be established on the Museumsinsel Berlin was set up by Wilhelm von Bode in 1904 and housed in the then newly opened Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum, which has since been renamed the Bode-Museum in his honour. We also have Bode to thank for the wonderful donation of colourful carpets, which together with the carved façade of the desert palace of Mshatta (a gift presented by the Turkish Sultan to the German Emperor) formed the backbone of the museum’s collection. Later accessions of Islamic craftwork were donated to the collection by Friedrich Sarre, the first director of the department, and were joined by numerous works of art uncovered in excavations. In 1932 the then independent museum moved into more suitable exhibition galleries within the newly built Pergamonmuseum.
Its exhibition was forced to close, however, when war broke out in 1939. Although objects were protected or removed for safekeeping, the aerial bombardment took its toll: numerous precious carpets fell victim to the flames and the left gate-tower from Mshatta collapsed. After the restoration of this important early Islamic architectural monument, the department reopened in the Pergamonmuseum in 1954 and was renamed the 'Islamic Museum'. In a separate development in West Berlin, those objects from the collection held at storage sites that fell in the western zones of occupation were gradually returned to (West) Berlin and were placed on show in the new Dahlem site until 1967. They were subsequently showcased in an exhibition of Islamic art at Schloss Charlottenburg, from 1968 to 1970. The permanent exhibition of the newly named 'Museum für Islamische Kunst' opened its doors in a new building within the Dahlem museum complex in 1971. Back in East Berlin, the exhibition at the Pergamonmuseum was significantly expanded after the return in 1958 of artworks seized by the Soviet Union in 1945/46 and the restoration of two prayer niches (mihrabs) and the Aleppo Room (acquired in 1912).
The two separate museums were reunited after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, and the exhibition at the Dahlem site closed completely in 1998. The newly remerged Museum für Islamische Kunst unveiled its redesigned permanent exhibition at the Pergamonmuseum in spring of 2000. With the move to the northern wing of the Pergamonmuseum the museum will almost triple space and be part of the main circuit in 2019. The concept will follow new ways of communicating Muslim artistic legacies.
Titles of publication released by the Museum für Islamische Kunst are listed in the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin bibliography.
The Museum für Islamische Kunst presents its unique objects at the Pergamonmuseum on the Museumsinsel Berlin.
Click here for addresses, opening times, admission prices, and public transport links.
For queries surrounding your visit, please contact the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin infoline:
Tel.: +49 (0)30 / 266424242 (Mon - Fri 9 am - 4 pm)
Fax: +49 (0)30 / 266422290