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Aga Khan Museum

Fantastic Creatures on Display at the Aga Khan Museum

GET INTRODUCED TO INCREDIBLE CREATURES AND ARTIFACTS AT THE AGA KHAN MUSEUM

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A whimsical creature decorates a cup from mid-late 17th-century India.

TO SEPTEMBER 11TH Animals—real and imagined—from legends, fables and classic literature, embellish manuscripts, and adorn everything from textiles and ceramics to jewellery and glass at the Aga Khan Museum’s new exhibit, Marvellous Creatures: Animals in Islamic Art. Among the items on display are a silver-gilded vase from 6-7th-century Iran. Discover these beings, and their part in art and history, through seventh to 21st century works from the Middle East, North Africa, and India.

Mark McEwan Takes Over Diwan at the Aga Khan Museum

THE AGA KHAN MUSEUM’S DIWAN RESTAURANT NOW FEATURES A NEW MENU DESIGNED BY CELEBRITY CHEF MARK MCEWAN

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The serene Diwan dining room at the Aga Khan Museum (photo: Janet Kimber)

At museums, change is inevitable. It’s most evident in the opening and closing of temporary exhibitions and special events, but evolution also occurs elsewhere—in the way programs are delivered, in the layout of galleries, and, in the case of the Aga Khan Museum, the operation of its food and beverage services. Late last year, the celebrated institution for Islamic art and culture partnered with chef Mark McEwan to revamp the offerings at its Diwan restaurant. Though McEwan’s background isn’t exactly steeped in the cuisine of the Islamic diaspora, he’s nothing if not adaptable: his restaurants’ culinary profiles range from contemporary Continental (North 44) to brassy North American (Bymark) to rustic Italian (Fabbrica), and his two upscale supermarkets demonstrate his long history of sourcing the absolute best ingredients. At Diwan, the chef and his team have retained the restaurant’s artful approach to Middle Eastern, North African and South Asian cooking, while also making its lunchtime dishes a little more accessible. A traditional wedge salad, for example, gets a Moroccan twist with cilantro mint dressing, tamarind chutney and crispy daal, while salmon is glazed with harissa and served with quinoa, falafel and pomegranate yogurt. What hasn’t changed, however, is the beautiful, serene dining room, which is accented by hand-carved and painted wood panels dating back to 19th-century Damascus.  —Craig Moy

• Diwan, Aga Khan Museum, 77 Wynford Dr., 416-646-4670; agakhanmuseum.org/dine
• Map and reviews

10 Museum Shows for a Cultured Spring

DON’T MISS THESE UNIQUE NEW AND ONGOING EXHIBITIONS AT SOME OF TORONTO’S TOP MUSEUMS!

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Abbas Kiarostami’s exhibition, Doors Without Keys, continues at the Aga Khan Museum through to March 20 (photo: Craig Moy)

The permanent collections at Toronto’s major cultural institutions are always worth exploring, but this season their limited-run shows are also very compelling. From two distinct displays of doors to an anthropological examination of tattoo art, there’s something for everyone at these unique new museum shows.

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The Aga Khan Museum Opens its Doors to Abbas Kiarostami

THE AGA KHAN MUSEUM’S FIRST SOLO SHOW COMES COURTESY OF IRANIAN FILMMAKER AND ARTIST ABBAS KIAROSTAMI

Aga Khan Museum Abbas Kiarostami Doors Without Keys Toronto

photo: Craig Moy

NOVEMBER 21 TO MARCH 27 To Westerners, Abbas Kiarostami is perhaps best known as the Iranian director of festival-circuit films—the layered, deeply contemplative character studies that win awards at Cannes, Venice and elsewhere. Yet his creative practice is as multifaceted as it is prolific. On the cinematic side, he’s also an editor, screenwriter and producer; off screen he’s a respected poet as well as a widely exhibited photographer. It’s Kiarostami the image-maker who’s responsible for “Doors Without Keys,” the first solo-artist show presented by the Aga Khan Museum. The world-premiere installation turns the exhibition space into a maze of closed doors—shot over two decades in France, Morocca, Italy and Iran and printed at life size—that are aesthetically beautiful, but which also contain the mysteries of the unseen. “What lies behind these doors? What have they witnessed, and why are they locked?” the curatorial literature asks. Are they barriers, or do they offer hope of entry? The answers, of course, are for each of us to imagine.

Just as Kiarostami’s doors encourage us to fashion new narratives and find unexpected meanings, so too do his films challenge us to arrive at our own conclusions. Many of these unique cinematic works will also be shown as part of the Aga Khan Museum’s Kiarostami programming—some on a loop, in an exclusive space adjacent to the exhibition, and others as singular screenings in the museum’s auditorium. Among the offerings? The complex Close-Up, Palme d’Or–winning Taste of Cherry, and Where is the Friend’s Home?, the 1987 film that prompted Kiarostami to begin his two-decade photographic study of doors.  —Craig Moy

• Aga Khan Museum, 77 Wynford Dr., 416-646-4677; agakhanmuseum.org
Map and reviews

The Aga Khan Museum Hosts Modern Middle Eastern Artworks

CONTEMPORARY ARAB ARTISTS BREAK DOWN GEO-POLITICAL BARRIERS AT THE AGA KHAN MUSEUM

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Larissa Sansour’s Nation State—Olive Tree is among the works on display at the Aga Khan Museum’s latest contemporary exhibition

JULY 25 TO JANUARY 3  It’s now been a year since the Aga Khan Museum opened its doors. In that time it’s become renowned for its priceless assemblage of historical art and artifacts from the Arab world. Just as exciting, however, are its displays of modern creativity. The latest such show brings to Toronto two-dozen diverse, contemporary pieces from the collection of the UAE-based Barjeel Art Foundation. Situating works by Middle Eastern and North African artists—such as Iraq’s Dia al-Azzawi and Saudi Arabia’s Manal al-Dowayan—within a global context, the exhibition, appropriately titled “Home Ground,” addresses the ways in which navigating geo-political boundaries shape our sense of personal identity and our relationships within a society.  —Craig Moy

• Aga Khan Museum, 77 Wynford Dr., 416-646-4677; agakhanmuseum.org
Map and reviews

Culture, Commerce and Carpets at the Aga Khan Museum

THE AGA KHAN MUSEUM’S CANADIAN-EXCLUSIVE EXHIBITION OF PAINTINGS AND TEXTILES EXAMINES CONNECTIONS BETWEEN EUROPE AND THE MIDDLE EAST

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photo: Craig Moy

JUNE 6 TO OCTOBER 18  For centuries, rugs from Persia, Turkey and elsewhere in the Middle East have been prized for their vibrant colours, intricate patterns and masterful quality of their weaving. The Aga Khan Museum demonstrates just how desirable these textiles became—in their countries of manufacture, but also in the Western world—in its “A Thirst for Riches” exhibition. The compact but intriguing show juxtaposes exceptionally well-preserved carpets from the East with paintings by 17th-century Dutch and Flemish masters (as well as painted manuscripts from the museum’s own collection), recruiting each piece into a conversation about commerce, faith and cultural exchange.  —Craig Moy

• Aga Khan Museum, 77 Wynford Dr., 416-646-4677; agakhanmuseum.org
Map and reviews

Toronto Museums Have the Best Views in the City

THERE’S NEVER BEEN A BETTER TIME TO VISIT TORONTO MUSEUMS. EACH OF THEM REVEALS IMPORTANT ASPECTS OF HUMANITY’S CULTURAL HISTORY, WHILE LOOKING TOWARD OUR SHARED FUTURE.

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The Gallery of Chinese Temple Art, Gallery of the Age of Mammals, and Teck Suite of Galleries: Earth’s Treasures are among the Royal Ontario Museum’s many unique permanent exhibits (photos: Royal Ontario Museum)

ALL-ENCOMPASSING INSTITUTION
It can be easy to take the Royal Ontario Museum for granted. If you’ve visited Toronto for any length of time, you’ve probably wandered through the museum’s halls and examined its vast holdings at least once. After all, the ROM has now stood for 101 years. No matter, though—if this is your first visit or, well, your one hundred and first, there’s always something to discover. Most patrons (especially those with children) make a beeline to the Galleries of the Age of Dinosaurs on the second floor of the stark Michael Lee Chin Crystal, but we think you’ll find equal enjoyment examining the museum’s stunning assemblage of minerals and gems, and its vast holdings of Chinese, Japanese, Korean and South Asian art. Unique among Toronto museums, the ROM’s purview includes both natural and human history. Feel a bout of museum fatigue coming on? The fourth-floor contemporary gallery is usually a little quieter (though right now it’s hosting a big Douglas Coupland show), or just take a minute to stand in the ROM’s historic rotunda: its domed ceiling is composed of more than one million Venetian glass tiles, arranged in pictographs representing the world’s natural and cultural histories.

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Contemporary Pakistani Art at the New Aga Khan Museum

Still from Nurjahan Akhlaq's film Death in the Garden of Paradise. Image courtesy of the Aga Khan Museum.

Still from Nurjahan Akhlaq’s film Death in the Garden of Paradise. Image courtesy of the Aga Khan Museum.

TO JANUARY 18 The Fumihiko Maki–designed Aga Khan Museum—the first in North American dedicated to Islamic art and culture—is the new home of the Aga Khan’s expansive collection of art and artifacts. In the temporary exhibitions gallery, the theme of the garden, which figures prominently in Islamic culture, is explored through works by six artists in “The Garden of Ideas: Contemporary Art of Pakistan.” Tradition and modernity converge in these works that include Persian carpets embellished with hand-embroidered maps by British expat David Chalmers Alesworth, more than 50 paintings by Aisha Khalid, and films by Bani Abidi and Nurjahan Akhlaq. Notably, three pieces are on view in public spaces: Khalid’s two-sided tapestry (created with more than one million gold-plated steel pins) hangs in the atrium, while Atif Khan’s replica of an ink stamp sits outside the museum’s entrance, and Imran Quereshi’s floral paintings on paving stones are installed in the garden. —Cara Smusiak

Aga Khan Museum, 77 Wynford Dr., 416-646-4677; agakhanmuseum.org