Former Iranian ambassador gives $2.8m to assist Texas's Museum of Fine Arts in pursuit of Islamic art

The director says that the collection will be the first of its kind in the region, catering to an emergent Muslim community


The former Iranian ambassador to the US, Hushang Ansary, and his wife Shahla, who now live in Houston, have given $2.8m to the city’s Museum of Fine Arts towards the establishment of an Islamic art collection—the first in Texas. At an event last month, the museum raised another $800,000, including $100,000 from the Aga Khan Shia Ismaili Community of Houston and $25,000 from Sheikh Sultan bin Suhaim Al Thani of Qatar. The museum has already acquired nine objects for the collection, including works of calligraphy, ceramics and metalwork, such as a Seljuk Turkish, 12th- to 13th-century bronze incense burner in the shape of a lion (above). Over the next five years, the museum plans to raise $35m which will fund the acquisition of around 100 works, an endowed curatorship, the development of a permanent gallery and a programme of exhibitions. Director Peter Marzio says the museum decided to launch the project because “in this part of the US there is no institution collecting Islamic art. The Muslim population here is growing fairly quickly and we have had great support from local communities. Also, there are a lot of people who just don’t know about Islam or the culture and so they will be able to learn. And to be selfish, the art is just flat-out beautiful”

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Former Iranian ambassador helps fund Islamic art for Texas'