Ancient Middle Eastern Gallery reopens at the Cincinnati Art Museum


The Cincinnati Art Museum opens its redesigned Middle East art gallery on Saturday.

Over 100 artifacts will be on display in the gallery. The centerpiece is a sanctuary which has not been in its full form since the third century.

The new galleries will be organized thematically and will integrate contemporary reflections on ancient pasts. Ainsley Cameron, Ph.D., curator of South Asian art, Islamic art, and antiques, says one of the themes highlights depictions of female power.

The galleries will be organized by theme, including this exhibition on “Portraying Feminine Power”. Curator Ainsley Cameron, PhD, says the Cincinnati Art Museum seeks to highlight the female presence within the ancient civilization of the Middle East.

“When you think of the ancient world, you see these iconographies of power,” Cameron said. “You see royalty. You see images of the king, you see images that relate to how this power is displayed, but you don’t often see the queen. You don’t often see this female presence, so we have wanted to postpone that a bit. “

Contemporary pieces will be on display alongside the artifacts in the form of stained glass mounted on the windows on both sides of the gallery. Jill Dunne is the museum’s director of marketing and communications. She says contemporary pieces serve to connect the past with the future.


Shahzia Sikander’s painted glass pieces, titled “Cesura”, will occupy the skeleton windows on both sides of the gallery.

“You can see both the old and the contemporary in such a way that it enhances both, so you are going to appreciate the old art better after looking at the contemporary art and then you can really appreciate the ancient art of a new way, too, ”said Dunne.

Changes are underway in the old 2,800 square foot Middle East Gallery. The architectural changes include new tour routes, LED lighting and new windows for more natural light. Dunne says more rooms will be added and the gallery will be fully open by spring 2022.

“It was a little hiatus during the pandemic and while we were under construction, but now people are really going to be able to experience, appreciate and fully understand ancient Middle Eastern art,” Dunne said.

Most of the collection has been in storage since 2004 pending new gallery space. Entrance to the museum and gallery is free, as is parking.

The museum has long-standing ties with the Jordanian government and has often collaborated with Jordanian academics and officials to represent the Nabataean civilization. The gallery will include the largest collection of Nabataean art in the United States, according to the museum.

The ancient Middle East stretches from Turkey to the Indus Valley of present-day Pakistan, and from the Caucasus region to the Arabian Peninsula. The term “Ancient Middle East” is often applied to objects made between the Neolithic period (eight millennia BC) and the end of the Sassanid Empire (mid-7th century AD).


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