Beyond Words - Calligraphy from the World of Islam

May 24, 2024
- January 26, 2025

Beyond Words. Calligraphy from the World of Islam

Calligraphy means the art of writing beautifully. Over time, writing has been developed and refined to a point where it has become an art form in its own right. Calligraphy is frequently used in almost every kind of media within the Islamic world – and hence has become a unique testimony to Islamic culture. The most skilled calligraphers have gone on to become famous artists, and several have formed schools within their respective fields.

After the rise of Islam in the seventh century and its initial spread, the Arabic script took on a very special significance becoming a unifying factor – an identity marker – across geography and ethnicity. Since the use of imagery of living beings was not practiced in religious contexts - even in early Islam – beautifully conducted handwriting took on a notable role in Islamic culture.

In the Islamic world, inscriptions appear in far more contexts than in most other cultures. We see calligraphy on everything from parchment and paper to everyday objects and buildings. The calligraphic quotations also range from poetic extracts written by famous poets to passages honouring the rulers or owners of the commissioned works as well as texts about the artists themselves. Very often, however, we find Koranic quotations. The Koran is written in Arabic, and therefore the writing alone – when beautifully performed – is considered a tribute to God.

The exhibition presents 128 individual works, all of which exemplify the importance and role of calligraphy. The audience is introduced to different types of writing and the different usages from official documents to metal work, ceramics, textiles and architecture. The selected objects stem mainly from The David Collection, but the exhibition also includes works from Designmuseum Denmark, The Hirschsprung Collection, the Royal Danish Library and The National Museum of Denmark.

The exhibition is curated by curator Peter Wandel, Rasmus Bech Olsen and director Joachim Meyer. The exhibition design was created in collaboration with the design studio Mentze Ottenstein.

Alongside the exhibition, a publication, sharing the same title as the exhibition, will be published and available in both Danish and English at the museum shop for DKK 349.95. It contains work descriptions as well as in-depth articles on calligraphy. The publication was made in collaboration with Rasmus Koch Studio. 

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