H.E. Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of Louvre Abu Dhabi, inaugurated the ground-breaking exhibition Cartier, Islamic Inspiration and Modern Design, opening from 16 November 2023 to 24 March 2024. Co-organised by Louvre Abu Dhabi, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Musée du Louvre and France Muséums, with the support of Maison Cartier, the exhibition explores the influence of Islamic art on Cartier’s design from the beginning of the 20th century to the present day.
Cartier, Islamic Inspiration and Modern Design is co-curated by Judith Henon-Raynaud, Chief Curator and Deputy Director of the Department of Islamic Art at the Musée du Louvre and Évelyne Possémé, Former Chief Curator of Ancient and Modern Jewellery at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, with the assistance of Fakhera Alkindi, Senior Curatorial Assistant at Louvre Abu Dhabi. This exhibition builds upon a project titled Cartier and Islamic Art: In Search of Modernity (Paris-Dallas 2021-2022), which was initially conceived and co-organised by the Dallas Museum of Art and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, with the exceptional collaboration of the Musée du Louvre and the support of Maison Cartier. The exhibition was curated by Heather Ecker, Judith Henon-Raynaud, Évelyne Possémé and Sarah Schleuning.
At the turn of the 20th century, the organisation of major exhibitions dedicated to Islamic art and the massive arrival of works, particularly Persian and Indian paintings and manuscripts, led to the development of a true Persian fashion in Paris.
Louis Carter, grandson of the founder of the Maison, was deeply intrigued by these artistic traditions that he discovered in the Parisian art market. In search of new sources of inspiration, he enriched the Maison’s study library with the latest publications dedicated to Islamic arts and architecture. This library would be an endless source of paterns for the Maison’s designers, possibly the original source. In the 1910s, Louis Cartier initiated a personal collection of Islamic art, which he made available to the Maison’s designers. In 1911, his brother Jacques Cartier travelled to India to reinforce ties with maharajas, and to the Arabian Gulf region to investigate the pearl market. The discovery of the patterns and shapes in architecture, artworks, and literature unlocked a new realm of modern artistic expression for the Maison, right up to the artistic direction of Jeanne Toussaint and even today.
The exhibition’s chapters explore the Maison’s sources of inspiration and its creative process through over 400 objects from the collections of Louvre Abu Dhabi, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Musée du Louvre, and Cartier Collection and Archives, as well as exceptional loans from Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux-Arts de la ville de Paris and other lenders, spanning masterpieces of Islamic art, jewellery, drawings, design sketches, miniatures, textiles, photographs and archival material.
Manuel Rabaté, Director of Louvre Abu Dhabi, said: “As the first universal museum in the Arab World, Louvre Abu Dhabi seeks to broaden our visitors’ perspectives by bringing unique art and cultural experiences to Abu Dhabi. Through this exhibition, and thanks to the precious loans from our partners – Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Musée du Louvre and many other lenders, our visitors will not only be able to discover new connections between cultures and gain a better understanding of modernity, but they will also be inspired by the rich technicalities and unique materials of Islamic art, architecture and Cartier jewellery on display. The Cartier, Islamic Inspiration and Modern Design exhibition at Louvre Abu Dhabi is also a testament to a longstanding and successful partnership between our institution and Cartier.”
Exhibition curators Judith Henon-Raynaud and Évelyne Possémé, said: “This exhibition is the result of almost five years of research in archives, drawings and photographs to discover the links between Cartier creations and Islamic art, and to identify the sources of inspiration. The result is a true immersion into the creative process and a journey through the sources that inspired some of the most innovative pieces in French jewellery. The exhibition allows us to understand the importance of the discovery of Islamic art for artists at the beginning of the 20th century, and the way in which this aesthetic influence was at the origin of many masterpieces produced in Europe, and a real fashion phenomenon. We hope that this exhibition will be the first of many to bring this history to light and pave the way for many other discoveries.”
Guilhem André, Acting Director of Curatorial, Scientific and Collection Management Department at Louvre Abu Dhabi, said: “Cross-cultural influence has always been central to the narrative of Louvre Abu Dhabi, evident in both our permanent galleries and temporary exhibitions. The exhibition Cartier, Islamic Inspiration and Modern Design is a prime example of this, showcasing how the past continues to inspire the present. We have seen our visitors deeply appreciate the craftsmanship and ornamental beauty of Islamic art over the years. With this exhibition, featuring previously unseen works, visitors will be able to delve into the creative process behind the craftsmanship that combines the rich heritage of Islamic art with the creative innovations of the 20th century Parisian workshops. It also presents an exciting opportunity to engage various audiences, particularly the growing design community in the UAE.”
Pierre Rainero, Image, Style and Heritage Director at Cartier, commented: “Islamic art has played a significant and structural impact on Cartier’s creative language since the beginning of the 20th century. This vocabulary continues to grow even today, thanks to the richness of geometric paterns and their many combinations. This exhibition underscores the living language of the Cartier style, and in turn highlights how important jewellery is to the artistic field. Cartier’s true pioneering spirit is also revealed, along with the role the Maison played in the birth of modernity at the start of the 20th century.”
Highlights from Louvre Abu Dhabi’s collection displayed in the exhibition include a wooden Carved ivory panel with scrolls (1334 – 1339, Cairo, Egypt); a Dish with a blue Saz leaf, dotted tulips and roses (ca. 1580, Iznik, Turkey); a Glass vessel in the shape of a mosque lamp by Joseph Brocard (1871, Paris, France). Masterpieces from Musée des Arts Décoratifs include a Basin by Théodore Deck (1863, Paris, France) and a binding and title page of the Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam (1912, Paris, France). Highlights of loans from Musée du Louvre include a Fragment of a mosaic panel with geometric decoration (14 – 15th century), Three tiles from a wall panel (1550 – 1600, Damascus, Syria), a Pen box said to have belonged to Mirza Muhammad Munshi and a Pen box in the name of Shah Abbas (late 16th – early 17th century, Deccan, India) and a Casket (19th century, Iran). The Cartier Collection is lending special works including a cigarette case (Cartier Paris, 1930), a vanity case with decoration inspired by Iznik ceramics (Cartier Paris, 1927), a Hindu necklace (Cartier Paris, 1936) and a tiara (Cartier London, 1937). Le Petit Palais – Musée des Beaux-arts de la Ville de Paris is lending an exceptional collection of design sketches by Charles Jacqueau, a pivotal designer to Maison Cartier.
Lenders to the exhibition include Louvre Abu Dhabi; Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, France; Musée du Louvre, Paris, France; Cartier and Cartier Archives; Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, Canada; The al- Sabah Collectiion, Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyah, Kuwait; Al Shindagha Museum, Dubai, UAE; The Al Thani Collection; H.E. Sheikha Nouf Bint Khalifa Al-Thani; Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris, France; Galerie Ary-Jan, Paris, France; Fabrice Gros, Antwerp, Belgium; Collection of Businesswoman Pansy Ho; Mengdiexuan Collection, Hong Kong; Monaco Princely Palace Collection, Monaco; Musée du quai Branly, Paris, France; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, USA; Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar; Museum of Islamic Civilization, Sharjah, UAE; Petit Palais – musée des Beaux-arts de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France; The Private Collecton of Tina Vidal-Duart; The Royal Collection / Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, USA; in addition to numerous private lenders.
A few feet from the main exhibition galleries, the temporary exhibit features an immersive digital space, where large digital animations show artistic interpretations of the physical assembly of Cartier key pieces and their source of inspiration. Two “infinity rooms” will immerse visitors in animated patterns, offering a captivating 180-degree visual experience within this digital realm. The exhibition scenography and the digital space are designed by the New York-based design studio Diller Scofidio + Renfro. On the museum’s façade, projections of artworks and photographs will take visitors on the journey of Jacques Cartier’s travels – from Marseille to Agra, Bombay to Muscat, and Dubai to Muharraq.
Alongside Cartier, Islamic Inspiration and Modern Design exhibition, Louvre Abu Dhabi will offer a diverse cultural and educational programme, featuring an in-depth talk with the exhibition curators, a documentary film screening followed by a community discussion, guided tours, masterclasses, a family weekend and an activity booklet.
Cartier has been a longstanding supporter of Louvre Abu Dhabi. In 2019, the 10,000 Years of Luxury exhibition featured iconic pieces on loan from the Cartier Collection. Also, Louvre Abu Dhabi presented USO, The Perfumed Cloud (USO = Unidentified Scented Object), an olfactory art installation, created by Maison Cartier’s in-house perfumer Mathilde Laurent and Transsolar Klima Engineering. This art installation offered an immersive sensory journey, inviting visitors to climb a spiral staircase to immerse themselves in a cloud of perfume.
The public will get the chance to explore the exhibition through different channels, all available in Arabic, English and French. Visitors can enjoy an audio tour through the exhibition podcast, which will be available on streaming platforms (including Spotify, Anghami, Apple podcast, Google podcast and Deezer), as well as Louvre Abu Dhabi’s website and mobile application. A catalogue highlighting the various themes, sections and objects in the exhibition will be available in three languages.
For more information about the exhibition and to book tickets, please visit www.louvreabudhabi.ae or call Louvre Abu Dhabi at +971 600 56 55 66. Entrance to the exhibition is free with the museum’s general admission tickets. Admission to the museum is free for children under the age of 18.
Press release from Louvre Abu Dhabi
Image: Installation view of Cartier, Islamic Inspiration and Modern Design at Louvre Abu Dhabi, 2023. Photography by Ismail Noor / Seeing Things. © Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi