Toronto's Aga Khan Museum to celebrate Syria's heritage

Foundation behind museum has committed $200m to post-war reconstruction

The Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, devoted to the heritage of Muslim civilisations, opens an exhibition on 15 October devoted to the art of Syria.

Syria: A Living History includes around 50 pieces chosen from the Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and museums and collections in Berlin, Ontario and Dubai. It includes an eye idol carved around 3,200 BC, a picture by the noted 20th-century painter Fateh Moudarres, and the celebrated Aleppo Room from the Museum of Islamic Art in Berlin.

Symbolically, the exhibition also includes a 3,000-year-old prayer stele, excavated by Max von Oppenheim from the ancient city of Tell Halaf. It was seriously damaged in a Second World War bombing raid on his Berlin museum but has recently been restored. As the scale of the destruction of Syrian cities approaches that in wartime Germany, the Aga Khan Foundation has committed $200m to Syrian reconstruction, particularly in Aleppo, where it helped restore the old city’s citadel before the current war.

The curator Filiz Çakır Phillip tells the Art Newspaper: “We are trying to communicate much more than the civil war that’s going on, how rich a cultural history Syria has. One of our major aims is to show the artistic continuity in Syria—we don’t want people to think that because of the war everything has stopped, that there are no artists—so we have included modern and contemporary art.”