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.