The Nasser D. Khalili Collection at the Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam
Mixing in 19th century Occidental fantasies about the Orient—such as flying carpets and the mystery of the Fata Morgana—with the visual dialogue arising from a myriad of similarities between Occidental and Oriental art and craft, this exhibition was all about the object. The object’s appearance—and disappearance—and the love it takes to make.
The Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam has a long-standing reputation for presenting in-depth ethnographical exhibitions. The exhibition Passie voor Perfectie (Passion for Perfection) brought together over 500 religious and secular art and craft-objects from the world of the Islam. These objects were exclusively chosen from the collection of Professor Nasser D. Khalili PhD, KCSS, KCFO (ناصر داوود خلیلی, IR, 1945). This vast collection—one of the largest in the world—covers all periods and regions of the Islamic tradition. The collection is known for its exceptional quality metalwork, ceramics, textiles and manuscripts.
Attention to detail was the starting point for the exhibition’s concept; the pure and simple presentation of each individual object in all its magnificence. The visual splendor of the 13th century church itself underpinned this concept; incorporating 13000ft2 (1200m2) of clear mirror glass, the design attempted to provoke a dialogue between the christian and the islamic world, hoping to emphasize not only the clear differences, but moreover the striking similarities in artistic expression of both religions. The Iranian Jewish origin of Professor Khalili made the trinity of religious dialogue even more compelling. The mirror volumes that housed the objects played not only with eastern and western romantic notions of oriental mystique but also with the idea of the mirage; itself present from afar and yet elusive and obscuring when approached up close.
The exhibition Passion for Perfection was presented at the Nieuwe Kerk from December 2010 through April 2011.
Design Siebe Tettero;
curator Vincent Boele, Siebe Tettero;
design assistant Meike Stoetzer;
execution by Kloosterboer/Viskon Glass;
for Museum De Nieuwe Kerk (Amsterdam).