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Museum gotta see 'um
December 21, 2012, 05:00 AM By Susan Cohn Daily Journal Senior Correspondent

JAMEEL PRIZE FINALISTS ON DISPLAY AT CANTOR ARTS CENTER AT STANFORD UNIVERSITY. On view for the first time in the United States, "The Jameel Prize: Art Inspired by Islamic Tradition” at Stanford University's Cantor Arts Center presents the work of 10 artists selected as finalists for the prestigious Jameel Prize, an international award bestowed by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and sponsored by Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives.

The Jameel Prize, awarded for contemporary art and design inspired by Islamic tradition, encourages the exploration of long-established practices of Islamic art, craft and design within a contemporary framework. The resulting exhibition demonstrates that artists can use these traditions in ways that are vividly relevant to the contemporary world and fosters a wider debate about Islamic culture and its role today.

The Prize is open to all and not restricted to Muslims or those from the Islamic world. Entry is by nomination and for the 2011 Jameel Prize the names of almost 200 artists and designers were put forward from countries as diverse as the United States, Spain, Nigeria, Egypt and Pakistan. From this list, 10 finalists were selected, with one chosen as a winner for a prize of 25,000 British pounds, or approximately $35,800. Rachid Koraïchi won the Jameel Prize 2011 for his series of embroidered cloth banners entitled "Les Maitres invisibles” ("The Invisible Masters”), made in 2008. Koraïchi uses Arabic calligraphy and symbols and ciphers from a range of other languages and cultures to explore the lives and legacies of the 14 great mystics of Islam. These "masters” include great Muslim thinkers and poets such as Rumi and EI Arabi, whose teachings have spread even to the West.

Connie Wolf, Cantor Arts Center John and Jill Freidenrich Director, said, "We are pleased to offer our visitors this exciting exhibition for its first U.S. viewing. These beautiful contemporary artworks are inspired by a long Islamic tradition, and it is wonderful that we can have the works on view at the Cantor, where we are dedicated to presenting important and engaging art from around the world. We are delighted to be able to introduce our visitors to the works of 10 artists who are showing their work for the very first time in the Bay Area.”

The finalists are culturally diverse, representing many countries. The youngest artist, Noor Ali Chagani, was born in Pakistan and lives in Lahore. Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, who has works in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, was born in Iran but spent many years in the United States; she currently lives in Tehran. Bita Ghezelayagh, born in Italy, now lives in London and Tehran. Babak Golkar, born in the United States, now lives in Canada. Hayv Kahraman, born in Iraq, now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Rachid Koraïchi, born in Algeria, now lives in Tunisia and France. Hazem EI Mestikawy, born in Egypt, lives in Egypt and Austria. Hadieh Shafie, born in Iran, lives in the United States. Soody Sharifi, born in Iran, lives in the United States.

The exhibition is organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in partnership with the Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives with the support of Cantor Arts Center Members and the Sohaib and Sara Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies at Stanford University. The program is the central forum for interdisciplinary research and teaching in Islamic Studies at Stanford University and facilitates and promotes the study of Islamic cultures and societies, including the history of Islam from its beginnings to the 21 century, systematic study of Islamic social contexts, the religion of Islam in all its internal complexity, and the diversity of human experience as seen in literature and the arts originating in societies affected by Islamic civilizations.

Related events include a Spotlight Talk by a graduate student on Friday, Jan. 11 at 2 p.m. and an Artist's Talk by Rachid Koraïchi on Thursday, Jan. 24 at 5:30 p.m. On Thursday, Feb. 7, beginning at 5:30 p.m., a panel of experts engage in scholarly debate about contemporary Islamic art. The programs are open to the public with free admission.

The Cantor Arts Center is open Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursday until 8 p.m. Admission is free. The Center is located on the Stanford campus, off Palm Drive at Museum Way. Parking is free after 4 p.m. weekdays and all day on weekends. For more information visit or call 723-4177. "The Jameel Prize: Art Inspired by Islamic Tradition” runs through March 10, 2013.

Susan Cohn can be reached at or

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