Shifting Boundaries: How to Make Sense of Islamic Art

By Sara Choudhrey and Ania Bobrowicz.

Published by The International Journal of Arts Theory and History

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published Online: October 8, 2015 $US5.00

There has been little change to definitions offered for the term “Islamic art” in the last 40 years. Alongside literary definitions, readers are presented with visual examples and sub-categories to help understand what the term might be applied to. With discussion on the understanding of Islamic art continuing to present day, we look to why ambiguity still exists. In searching for an answer we review some of the most popular definitions cited in recent literature, with a number of examples referring back to the writings of Oleg Grabar in 1973 - a time when Islamic culture was still predominantly associated with Muslim lands. We also examine some of the influences on sub-categorisation within Islamic art based on these definitions and consider the validity of these in light of the contemporary Islamic art scene in places such as Britain, where there is a large and growing Muslim diaspora. We ask, who is in the position to determine whether an artwork is “Islamic?” The artist, curator, or historian? Finally, we aim to clarify ambiguities surrounding the term “Islamic art” whilst also proposing a contemporary understanding of existing definitions in light of the views from all stakeholders, including those whose views are yet to be documented – the artists.

Keywords: Islamic Art, Definitions, Muslim Diaspora

The International Journal of Arts Theory and History, Volume 11, Issue 1, March, 2016, pp.1-13. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published Online: October 8, 2015 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.389MB)).

Sara Choudhrey

PhD Student, School of Engineering and Digital Arts, University of Kent, London, UK

Ania Bobrowicz

Senior Lecturer in Digital Arts, School of Engineering and Digital Arts, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK