In September 2020, the L.A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art in Jerusalem announced its decision to offer for sale a number of carefully selected pieces in order to secure the long-term future of the museum and expand its programs promoting intercultural dialogue. Now, thanks to the generous philanthropic intervention of The Al Thani Collection Foundation, a solution has been found which will ease the financial concerns of the museum whilst ensuring the pieces destined for sale be returned to the museum. The Al Thani Collection Foundation, a non-profit organisation whose core mission is to advance and promote art and culture, was introduced to the Museum’s board and the Israeli Ministry of Culture by Sotheby’s.
Under the terms of this new agreement, brokered by Sotheby’s, a major work from the L.A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art’s spectacular permanent collection will be exhibited for regular extended periods over the next ten years at The Al Thani Collection Foundation’s new museum space at the Hôtel de la Marine in Paris. There will also be further exchanges of loans between the two institutions. As part of this arrangement, the Al Thani Collection Foundation will generously provide an annual sponsorship to the L.A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art for the duration of this period. It is highly fitting that a resolution securing the future of a Jerusalem-based institution devoted to nurturing cross-cultural relations should be supported in this way by a similarly enlightened cultural body from the Arab world.
The L.A. Mayer Museum of Islamic Art is devoted to the collection, preservation and exhibition of art objects and archaeological artifacts that represent Islamic art across the ages, through conquests and regime changes, from the 7th to the 19th centuries. In the more than four decades of its existence, the museum has earned a reputation as home to one of the most important collections of Islamic art in the world, and the only one of its kind in Israel.
The Al Thani Collection Foundation’s philanthropic initiatives include sponsorships, museum projects, the staging of exhibitions, an international loans programme and academic publications – honouring artistic achievement across a rich diversity of cultures. These have taken place at institutions worldwide including The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and Tokyo National Museum.
In autumn 2021, The Al Thani Collection Foundation will open a museum space at the Hôtel de la Marine. Located on the Place de la Concorde in the heart of Paris, the space will provide for the long-term display of works drawn from across the collection, while also providing a venue for special exhibitions, educational events and seminars, as well as loans from international museum partners.
The major piece from the L.A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art’s collection that will be exhibited in this new Paris museum is a magnificent silver vessel from the legendary ‘Harari hoard’ named for Ralph Harari OBE (1892-1969), a noted Anglo-Jewish scholar-collector of Islamic metalwork. The hoard that bears his name comprises twenty rare and precious silver vessels dating to the 10th and 11th centuries which were discovered in the early 20th century concealed in a large earthenware jar and were first shown in public at Burlington House in London in 1931. Recognised by scholars as the most important group of Islamic silverware to have survived from the early Medieval period, the vessels were probably concealed soon after they were made by a merchant on his way to the West. The group is remarkable for the skill behind its production and the fine condition in which the pieces have survived over many centuries to be admired by scholars and art lovers today.
Hili Tropper, Israel’s Minister of Culture and Sport, said: “I am delighted that all our strenuous efforts to preserve intact the entirety of the collection of the L.A. Mayer Museum have come to such a successful conclusion. I am grateful to Sotheby’s and to The Al Thani Collection Foundation, whose generosity is a great tribute to the spirit of cross-cultural cooperation.”
Edward Gibbs, Sotheby’s Chairman, Middle East and India, said: “We are delighted to have been able to bring together these two remarkable institutions, together with the Ministry of Culture, to devise this creative answer to the financial challenges facing the L.A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art. The wonderful by-product of this agreement, and this generous act of philanthropy by The Al Thani Collection Foundation, is that audiences in Paris and Jerusalem will now have the chance to come face to face with treasures they might never otherwise have seen.”
A spokesperson for The Al Thani Collection Foundation said: “The L.A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art is a fascinating institution that has captured our imagination. Their founding vision, which has endured over the decades, shares so many of our ideals for open exchange between cultures. We are very pleased to play a part in the survival of a unique institution that makes a meaningful difference to the communities around it.”
A spokesperson for the L.A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art in Jerusalem said: "We warmly welcome the agreement that has been reached, which will ensure the continued operation of the museum over time. The fact that the items will be returned to the museum is a great achievement that comes as a result of long negotiations and goodwill of all concerned: the Ministry of Culture, Sotheby's and of course The Al Thani Collection Foundation, for whose generosity we are most grateful. This is a truly momentous final outcome and we are thrilled to be partnering with The Al Thani Collection Foundation in this way to further our shared aims of increasing cultural exchange, while allowing the Museum to continue to enhance art and culture for the benefit of the Israeli public and art lovers.”
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*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium. Prices achieved include the hammer price plus buyer’s premium and are net of any fees paid to the purchaser where the purchaser provided an irrevocable bid.
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