In the world of art, where the strokes of a brush unveil stories of human expression and cultural richness, Islamic art stands as a hidden gem. From intricate calligraphy to mesmerising geometric patterns, this art form encapsulates the essence of Muslim civilisations across the ages. The captivating beauty of Islamic art has taken me on a remarkable journey, showing me that creativity knows no bounds and carrying meaningful stories that resonate with the depths of the soul.

Stepping into the world of Islamic art, I was immediately engulfed by a rich tapestry of visual delights that have flourished since the 7th century CE, enriching the cultural fabric of Muslim societies worldwide. This awe-inspiring canvas weaved together various forms and styles, each mirroring the unique creativity and ingenuity of its time and place. The strokes of calligraphy, the brushwork of paintings, the craftsmanship of ceramics, metalwork, textiles, carpets, glassware, woodwork, jewellery, and the architectural grandeur of mosques – all these threads formed the fabric of Islamic art’s magnificence.

In this mesmerising journey, I discovered that Islamic art is not merely a reflection of religious devotion; it is a magical mirror that reflects the culture, history, and intellectual achievements of diverse Muslim civilisations spanning continents and centuries. 

As I stood before the ornate mosaics of the Alhambra in Spain, I could almost hear the echoes of the Moors’ grandeur as they etched their stories into these captivating designs. 

When I witnessed the delicate miniatures of China whispered tales of art traditions interwoven in a beautiful fusion with Islamic influences, transcending time, and borders.#

Islamic art always invokes a feeling that there is something greater at play, like a sneak peek into the unseen. Eager to discover more and more. 

The Hidden Gem in the Global Art Market

Amidst the brilliance of Islamic art’s resplendent history, I find the shadows of its underrepresentation in the global art market intriguing. 

The Digital Islamic Services Landscape report by Deloitte laid bare the stark reality – Islamic Art & Design occupies a minute segment, accounting for only 0.1-0.2% of the overall market share. However, there is currently a resurgence. Remarkable sales increase of 22% CAGR since 2001, soaring to a staggering $78.9 million in 2011.

As I delved into the depths of these statistics, I realised that while major auction houses showcased most of the Islamic Art & Design items, there existed a passionate community of collectors, investors, and enthusiasts who ardently appreciated the allure of Islamic art. This love for Islamic art spread far and wide, drawing in souls curious to uncover its hidden treasures.

A Story of Resurgence: What Keeps Islamic Art Alive

The strength of Islamic art comes from the mix of passion, creativity, and a deep spiritual bond. I think one of the reasons why Islamic art is gaining popularity is because it offers a different perspective and aesthetic from mainstream art. 

Islamic art is often characterised by its geometric patterns, arabesque motifs, calligraphy, and vibrant colours. Islamic art also draws inspiration from various sources, such as nature, science, literature, and spirituality. Islamic art is not only pleasing to the eye but also to the mind and soul.

For example, one of the most famous examples of Islamic art is the Ardabil Carpet, which is probably the finest surviving Persian carpet from the 16th century. The carpet was made for a shrine in Ardabil, Iran, and it features a stunning design of medallions, flowers, and arabesques on a dark blue background. The carpet also contains an inscription in Arabic that praises the workmanship and invokes God’s blessing on the donor and the maker. The carpet is a masterpiece of craftsmanship, symbolism, and devotion.

Ardabil Carpet now situated in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Another clear reason why Islamic art is attracting attention is that it showcases the artistic achievements and cultural diversity of the Islamic world, which are often overlooked or misunderstood. 

Islamic art exhibitions, such as the ones held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Louvre in Paris, have attracted millions of visitors and generated positive reviews. These exhibitions challenge the stereotypes and misconceptions that often plague the media and public discourse about Islam and Muslims. They also highlight the commonalities and connections between Islamic art and other artistic traditions, such as Byzantine, Chinese, Indian, and African. 

The Alhambra was built by the Nasrid dynasty in the 13th and 14th centuries when Spain was under Muslim rule is also become one of the most remarkable examples of Islamic art. The Alhambra features a splendid combination of Islamic architecture and decoration with influences from Christian and Jewish cultures. The Alhambra is a symbol of tolerance, harmony, and creativity. Very much like Islamic art overall. 

Alhambra Palace. Picture taken from

Islamic art gives new ways for creative expression and innovation. Modern artists are finding old artistic ways and changing them for new mediums and styles. They are also making new meanings from traditional Islamic art shapes and patterns. These modern works make people interested in the wider Islamic art tradition. For example, eL Seed is an artist from Tunisia-France who mixes calligraphy with graffiti to make big paintings on walls that say messages of peace, respect, or justice.

El Seed’s masterpiece called “Perception”. Picture taken from the Insitute of Public Art.

From my perspective, an additional pivotal factor contributing to the flourishing of Islamic Art lies in the invaluable backing and acknowledgement extended by governments and institutions across the Muslim world. Countries such as Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Iran have invested heavily in building museums, galleries, and cultural centres that display and promote Islamic art. These initiatives not only aim to preserve and protect their heritage but also to share it with the rest of the world. They also seek to foster dialogue and understanding among different civilisations through cultural and diplomacy exchange.

The Future of Islamic Art: Embracing Opportunities and Overcoming Challenges

Islamic art is a rich and diverse field that reflects the cultural and historical heritage of Muslim populations. However, this art form faces many challenges in the modern world. Underrepresentation, limited visibility, and threats to its preservation are just a few to name. How can we ensure that Islamic art remains relevant and accessible to future generations while maintaining its authenticity and essence? 

As someone passionate about Islamic art, this question has both piqued my concern and sparked my curiosity about how this art form will evolve in the digital age.

One possible answer is to embrace the opportunities offered by the digital era. The online platform can be a powerful tool for showcasing, sharing, and preserving Islamic art with a global audience. Through digital technologies, Islamic art can reach new heights of creativity, innovation, and collaboration. For example, digital technologies can enable artists to create stunning visual effects, such as geometric patterns, calligraphy, and arabesque designs, that are inspired by traditional Islamic art forms. Digital technologies can also facilitate crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, and co-creation, allowing people from diverse backgrounds to participate in Islamic art projects and contribute to their development.

However, the use of digital technologies in Islamic art also poses some challenges and dilemmas. For instance, some artists may feel that digital technologies are a form of cheating or compromising their artistic integrity. Some may also question the spiritual value of Islamic art that is produced or consumed digitally. Moreover, some may worry that digital technologies may erode the originality and uniqueness of Islamic art, making it more homogeneous and standardised.

Therefore, it is important to strike a balance between preserving the essence of Islamic art and ensuring its adaptation to the digital era. This requires careful consideration of the methods and concepts adopted by artists, as well as the perceptions and attitudes of audiences. By doing so, we can foster a deeper appreciation and understanding of Islamic art, as well as a greater sense of responsibility and stewardship for its future.

Islamic Art: A Pillar of Economy and Civilisation

Beyond its intrinsic beauty, Islamic art is a pillar that contributes significantly to the economy and civilisation. Its impact can be felt across various domains, inspiring innovation and creativity while fostering cross-cultural dialogue and understanding.

One compelling example of Islamic art’s contribution to the economy lies in the revival of traditional craftsmanship. In the bustling streets of Fez, Morocco, the ancient art of Zellige tile-making is meticulously practised by skilled artisans. As the demand for authentic cultural experiences grows among international tourists, the resurgence of Zellige has led to economic benefits for local communities and the preservation of a unique cultural heritage.

A Moroccan zellige wall. Picture taken from Wikipedia.

Additionally, Islamic-inspired architecture serves as a powerful magnet, attracting tourists and scholars alike to historical sites around the world. One such marvel is the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilisation in the United Arab Emirates, a breathtaking testament to Islamic architecture’s rich heritage. The museum’s intricate designs and attention to detail not only captivate visitors but also provide employment opportunities, contributing to the local economy.

Beyond the realms of tourism, Islamic art has also left an indelible mark on literature, music, and science. Poets have drawn inspiration from the divine verses depicted in calligraphy, weaving their words into eloquent verses that evoke profound emotions. Musicians have embraced the mathematical precision of geometric patterns, creating symphonies that echo the symmetrical beauty of Islamic art. Scientific minds have marvelled at the advanced engineering principles behind Islamic architecture, with its awe-inspiring domes and minarets standing as feats of technical brilliance.

Moreover, Islamic art serves as a bridge between cultures, promoting cross-cultural dialogue and understanding. Its history reveals how Muslim civilisations interacted with diverse cultures, leading to an exchange of artistic ideas and cultural expressions. The fusion of Islamic art with Roman, Byzantine, Sassanian, Central Asian, Chinese, Indian, African, and European traditions is a testament to the unifying power of art, transcending borders and fostering mutual respect.

In conclusion, Islamic art is not merely a hidden gem but a luminous beacon that illuminates our shared humanity. Through its tapestry, it weaves stories of creativity, spirituality, and cultural diversity, inspiring us to celebrate our differences while embracing our common heritage. As we traverse the corridors of time, Islamic art teaches us how to balance tradition and innovation, sacredness and secularity, past and present. It also inspires us to create art that transcends boundaries and bridges cultures, honours our history and shapes our future. As more and more people are discovering Islamic art, let us learn from its wisdom and beauty, how we can temper digital transformation in a way that works positively with our humanity.

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Bayu Sri Ananto

Bayu, an experienced data analyst and auditor in the aviation industry, is a passionate traveller and visual storyteller through photography and videography.

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