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Museums -> New Islamic Gallery at The V&A
Detail of Ardabil Carpet. Persian 1539-40. Copyright The V&A.
Click for larger image
Victoria & Albert Museum
Cromwell Road
Entry to the V&A is Free
Telephone: 020 7942 2000.

Hartwell plc, part of the Abdul Latif Jameel Group, has given the Victoria & Albert Museum a substantial donation to transform one of its historic galleries into a fitting home for the Museum’s superb collection of Islamic art from the Middle East. The company is also financing a touring exhibition of the V & A’s Islamic treasures to the USA, Japan and the UK.

The total value of the gift is £5.4 million, which is one of the most generous ever received by the V&A. The new gallery will be named The Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art dedicated to the memory of Mr Abdul Latif Jameel, the late founder of the Abdul Latif Jameel Group, and his wife Nafisa. Hartwell plc’s headquarters are in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is a private company beneficially owned by members of the Jameel family.

Detail of Ardail Carpet. Persian 1539-40. Copyright The V&A.The Jameel gallery will be among the most beautiful in the Museum and will house treasures from the V&A’s collection of more than 10,000 Islamic objects from the Middle East. These include such famous pieces as the “Ardabil Carpet” from 16th-century Iran, which is not only one of the largest and finest carpets in existence but also the earliest dated, and an exquisite rock crystal ewer from 11th-century Egypt.

Other masterpieces will fill in the story of how Islamic art developed in the Middle East and beyond from the great days of the Islamic caliphate in the 8th and 9th centuries AD. The displays will encompass carved ivories from Islamic Spain, superb inlaid metalwork from medieval Egypt, Iznik ceramics from Ottoman Turkey, tilework from 14th-century Uzbekistan and oil paintings from 19th-century Iran.

The touring exhibition of the V&A’s Islamic treasures is designed to increase awareness and appreciation of Islamic art. The exhibition will travel the world while the new gallery is under development at the V&A, visiting the United States, Japan and finally Sheffield, before returning to the V&A for the gallery’s opening in 2006.

Bowl with foot. Turkish (isnik). 1500-49. Copyright The V&A.Mark Jones, Director of the V&A, said: “This is an extremely generous gift and the V&A is grateful to Hartwell and the Jameel family. This donation will make it possible for us to provide a showcase for the achievements of Islamic culture in the new Jameel Gallery dedicated to the memory of Mr and Mrs Abdul Latif Jameel. We will be able to do this not just for the British public but for an international audience. The V&A’s collections of Islamic art began to be formed as early as 1848, and they are universally recognised for their significance and scale.

“When it was created half a century ago, our present gallery was the most advanced display of Islamic art in the world, and ever since it has been instrumental in fostering appreciation of Islamic art as one of the world’s great cultures. This gift will allow us to re-present the gallery and use our collections to inspire future generations and spread a deeper understanding of Islamic culture.”

Crystal ewer. Egyptian 10-11th Century. Copyright The V&A.Mr. Mohammed Jameel, President and CEO of the Abdul Latif Jameel Group, whose headquarters are in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, is the son of Mr and Mrs Abdul Latif Jameel. He said: “We originally began to discuss and plan the renovation of the gallery in 2002 and agreed the principles that year. I am delighted and honoured today to be able to announce that the V&A’s new Islamic Gallery will be dedicated to the memory of my parents. Our family has a keen interest in world cultures and promoting understanding between them, and a commitment to increasing understanding of the Islamic world. It gives us great pleasure to be able to help the V&A display its superb collection of Islamic treasures in a way that will delight and educate more people than ever.”


Ivory Casket. Probably Cordoba. Early 11th Century. Copyright The V&A.The V&A’s Islamic collection from the Middle East covers the decorative arts – ceramics, textiles, carpets, metalwork, glass, woodwork and much more. It contains many items of exquisite beauty, and many signed and dated pieces of crucial documentary interest. The collection is also important in that it covers many areas in great depth, providing study facilities unequalled elsewhere. It ranks in scale, size and significance with those of the world’s other great museums, and in some areas where it is especially strong, such as ceramics, the V&A’s holdings can be judged the most extensive and important of all.

Detail of ivory Casket. Probably Cordoba. Early 11th Century. Copyright The V&A.As part of a Museum with global interests, the collections highlight the fruitful interchange between the Islamic world and its neighbours in Europe and Asia. The collections have inspired generations of British designers from William Morris to the present day and have helped shape and inform British design.

The current Islamic Gallery is now many decades old. The Museum intends to show the collections in new ways, using all the benefits of modern display techniques, and restoring them to the prominence they deserve. The new gallery will also provide more interpretative material, exploiting new technologies to allow a far better understanding of what is on show.


The ALJ business was established in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia almost 60 years ago. The head company, ALJ Co. Ltd., was formed in 1980. Since then it has grown into an internationally diversified group, with operations in the United Kingdom, Monaco, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Sudan, Syria, China and Japan. Its core businesses are in the automobile and financial services industries. Other sectors where the group has significant interests are Hotels, Consumer Electronics, Real Estate, Media Communication, and a JV Denso air-conditioning manufacturing operation in Saudi Arabia.

From the days of its founder, the late Abdul Latif Jameel, the group has always had a philosophy of returning to the society in which it operates a portion of what it has earned. The establishment of a Rehabilitation Centre in Jeddah, was a significant milestone, as it signalled the beginning of large scale involvement and leadership of the ALJ group in the field of social and community work.

In recent years, the group has accelerated its activities in this field, and embarked on arguably the largest community project in Saudi Arabia, with a fund of USD 30 million dedicated to vocational training for young Saudis. This includes creating opportunities for them to become entrepreneurs of small business enterprises, upgrading and modernising the Red Crescent services, and creating opportunities for women to learn new skills so they can contribute positively to the economic progress of the kingdom. This initiative in the first of its kind, and is setting the standards for others in the business community to follow.

Hartwell plc is part of the Abdul Latif Jameel Group. Hartwell has interests in automotive retailing, investment property and consumer finance in the United Kingdom. Hartwell’s headquarters are in Oxford, United Kingdom. It employs 2600 people in the UK.


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