Calligraphy is a key achievement of Islamic civilization and arguably the most characteristic expression of the Islamic spirit. Throughout the Islamic world, calligraphy embellishes the surfaces of objects large and small—from architecture to items of daily use—in styles that range from the elegant, refined, and eminently readable to the decorative, abstract, and barely legible. No other culture has explored the decorative and creative possibilities of the written word as extensively.
This exhibition examines the interplay between writing and picturing in Islamic calligraphy and explores the inherent tension between textual design, decoration, readability, and verbal clarity in some four dozen examples of Islamic calligraphy from The Met collection. These works, created between the ninth century and the present, include works on paper and parchment; ceramics; metalwork and coins; and a carpet. The presentation includes a selection of modern and contemporary works by artists from Iran and Pakistan who use the written word as their primary mode of artistic expression.