“It was inspired by my favorite mosque in the world … the Faisal Mosque in Islamabad,” he said. “Have you been there?” I asked. “No, no, but I’m dying to go,” he responded. Standing in the bookstore of the Institute of Arab and Islamic Art on a bright day in Soho, this was how Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Al-Thani explained the angular logo for his recently established institute. The “I”s of the IAIA recall the pencil minarets of neo-Ottoman architecture and the “A”s evoke what Islamic art historian Kishwar Rizvi has called the Faisal mosque’s “tent-like spaceframe structure.” The transnational mosque, full of architectural allusions, gives way to the visual branding of this new transnational institute.
The IAIA opened its doors on May 4 with Exhibition 1 featuring four artists, Dana Awartani, Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, Nasreen Mohamedi and Zarina Hashmi. Exhibition 1 is one room with four walls, each devoted to a single artist. The show consists of non-figural drawings and some photographs that relate to “Islamic” design and architecture. The institute has a gallery space and bookstore, and it aspires to organize quarterly exhibitions, travelling shows, artist residencies, and publications.