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Not everything great is as opulently alluring to the eye. A tiny gold coin from about A.D. 780, found by the Met in a thirties dig in Nishapur, along the Silk Road, is crowded into a case with other objects. It looks like nothing at first—yet it’s among the most revolutionary objects in the museum. Beyond the religious inscriptions and precious metal, this is Islam coming into its own, tossing aside the terms, currencies, and faiths of Byzantium, Rome, and the rest of the world. It shows us a new faith, state of mind, and economic system crowning itself by issuing its own money. It’s insurrection the size of a dime, with the sociopolitical impact of a supernova.

These galleries show the Met keeping its covenant, portraying the world’s art open-mindedly, with intelligence, inspiration, and love. The visual-cultural fecundity and pluralism on view prove that any monarchic racing for a single cultural throne is a lie. The world is a republic of ideas, innovations, and imaginations. Culture is not competition. Culture is convergence.

Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia
Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Opens November 1.

E-mail: jerry_saltz@newyorkmag.com.


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