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LACMA Is Hosting Dining With The Sultan: The Fine Art of Feasting

The Los Angeles County Museums of Art (LACMA) is hosting an exhibition titled “Dining with the Sultan: The Fine Art of Feasting.” This exhibition, curated by Linda Komaroff, explores Islamic art within the context of culinary traditions.

Komaroff expressed, “For many, if not most of us, our earliest encounter with another culture is not its art, literature, or history but rather its cuisine,” “Through the prism of our own modern-day fascination with gastronomy, the history of Islamic food culture offers us a powerful conduit for better appreciating and understanding fine art.”

The exhibition features three special installations, one of which is the Damascus Room (1776-67 / AH 1180). This lavishly decorated ‘qa’a’ reception room from a late-Ottoman courtyard home has beautifully painted and carved wood walls, showcasing the family’s wealth and social status. The intricately inlaid stone wall fountain and ornate arch formed of colorful plaster voussoirs are also highlights of the exhibit.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art acquired this complete interior in 2014, making it one of the best examples of its kind.

Another special exhibit is the ‘sufra’, a Persian word for the fabric covering the dining surface, typically placed on the ground in traditional Islamic settings.

Visitors can experience a traditional sufra and enjoy a rotation of dishes based on historical recipes updated and prepared by Iranian American chef, restaurateur and author Najmieh Batmanglij, including Eggplant dressed in sauce, Broth of chickpea, Rice and lamb with barberries, Carrot pudding with dried fruit, Chicken-filled pastry, and Sweet omelet.

Additionally, the exhibition showcases a rich array of tableware, preparatory vessels, textiles, instruments, manuscripts, paintings, and illustrations associated with a fine feast.

‘Dining with the Sultan’ is divided into 9 thematic sections, examining various aspects or influences in Islamic food culture across time and space.

One of the most intriguing installations is a piece commissioned by LACMA to create a connection between traditional and modern-day dining practices. Artist Sadik Kwaish Alfraji’s multimedia installation consists of drawings, photographs, and an animation film, offering a re-creation of childhood memories, perceptions, and comforts related to food.

Additionally, visitors can scan a QR code to access the recipe of traditional Iraqi bread made by the artist’s mother, Umm Sadik.

Michael Govan, LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director, mentioned, ” ‘Dining with the Sultan’ is a major exhibition of Islamic art that breaks new ground in its emphasis on a practice shared by all cultures – feasting. This exhibition also marks the first time that the Damascus Room will be accessible to U.S. audiences, and we are excited to share this work from the museum’s permanent collection.”

‘Dining with the Sultan: The Fine Art of Feasting’ is open to the public from December 17, 2023, to August 4, 2024, in the Resnick Pavilion.

Image Source: Michael Gordon / Shutterstock

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