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September 29, 2016

The first major exhibition of Qur’ans (Korans) in the U.S., “The Art of the Qur’an: Treasures from the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts” at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C., will now open Saturday, Oct. 22. It will be on view through Monday, Feb. 20, 2017. Opening-day programs for all ages will be offered from noon to 4 p.m. and include curator tours, family-friendly hands-on art activities, storytelling performances and live demonstrations of calligraphy and illumination. The full schedule is available in the events section of the museum’s website.

The landmark exhibition, organized by the Sackler and the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art in collaboration with the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts in Istanbul, will feature more than 60 Qur’ans, among the most important ever produced from the Arab world, Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan, including works from the permanent collection of the Freer and Sackler galleries plus a number of long-term loans. Celebrated for their superb calligraphy and lavish illumination, the manuscripts span almost 1,000 years of history—from eighth-century Damascus, Syria, to 17th-century Istanbul.

This landmark exhibition tells the individual stories of some of these extraordinary manuscripts, their makers and their owners. Visitors will learn how the Qur’an was transformed from an orally transmitted message into a fixed text, transcribed and illuminated by some of the most skilled artists of the Islamic world and treasured and disseminated by sultans and viziers over centuries.

Koç Holding is the exhibition’s principal sponsor, with additional support provided by Turkish Airlines, Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute, and Aydin Doğan Foundation. The exhibition was organized in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Republic of Turkey.

The Freer and Sackler galleries have one of the most celebrated collections of arts from the Islamic world in the U.S. They have presented other major exhibitions featuring important religious objects and publications, including “The Tibetan Shrine from the Alice S. Kandell Collection” in 2010 and “In the Beginning: Bibles Before the Year 1000” in 2006.


The Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art and the adjacent Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., together comprise the nation’s museum of Asian art. It contains one of the most important collections of Asian art in the world, featuring more than 40,000 objects ranging in time from the Neolithic to the present day, with especially fine groupings of Islamic art, Chinese jades, bronzes and paintings and the art of the ancient Near East. The galleries also contain important masterworks from Japan, ancient Egypt, South and Southeast Asia and Korea, as well as the Freer’s noted collection of works by American artist James McNeill Whistler. The Freer, which will be closed during the exhibition, is scheduled to reopen Oct. 7, 2017, with modernized technology and infrastructure, refreshed gallery spaces and an enhanced Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Auditorium.