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Try This: “Reverent Ornament: Art from the Islamic World”

We checked out the Columbia Museum of Art’s new exhibition, on view through May 14, 2023.

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An eight-point, star-shaped tile from Iran

The Persian word for “tile,” like the eight-point one from the 14th century seen here, is “kashi.”

Photo by the COLAtoday team

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The Columbia Museum of Art’s new exhibition “Reverent Ornament: Art from the Islamic World” opened on February 18, and we were thrilled to get to check it out. This collection offers 45 works that explore centuries-old arts and crafts traditions and scientific innovations from Iran, Egypt, India, Syria, and Turkey, featuring objects that could be found anywhere from ordinary homes to palaces. We were transported, and we highly recommend experiencing it for yourself.

What we tried:

We attended the exhibition’s opening day festivities, which included a CMA members drop-in as well as dance and musical performances. (Read: CMA membership comes with big perks.) “Reverent Ornament” is currently on view alongside the exhibition “Our Own Work, Our Own Way: Ascendant Women Artists in the Johnson Collection,” and includes glassware, ceramics, metalwork, painting, weaponry, weaving, and more. Think: timeless Islamic art that celebrates everyday life, history, and culture.

What not to miss:

We found ourselves mesmerized not just by the ornate objects on display, but also the explanations behind what they were used for. The astrolabe, for example, is a tool that is essentially a flattened, portable globe meant to help determine the current time as well as the time of the sunrise and sunset. The technology needed to create this device was rediscovered by Muslim scholars in the 8th and 9th centuries by translating Greek texts.

Objects from 18th-century Iran

The astrolabe, seen left, dates back to Iran in the 1700s.

Photo by the COLAtoday team

What we’re still talking about:

We loved the diversity of the pieces on display. From weapons to intricate tiles, prayer rugs to a 19th-century hookah, the respect and reverence for each piece was evident, whether it would have been found in a place of worship or someone’s kitchen.

How you can experience this:

“Reverent Ornament: Art from the Islamic World” will be on view through Sunday, May 14. The exhibition is free to explore with the price of admission or museum membership.


The objects included in the exhibition evoke a rich vision of daily life for those who created and used them.

Photo by the COLAtoday team

Things to know if you go:

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