One of the world’s most prestigious events on the Islamic art and architecture calendar, the 8th Biennial Hamad Bin Khalifa Symposium on Islamic Art, was held recently in Education City at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar (VCUarts Qatar).

This year’s event focused on the theme, ‘The Seas and the Mobility of Islamic Art’, and featured panel discussions and debates on subjects that include seas imagined and depicted in Middle Eastern art, maps, geography and transoceanic movement; Muslim-centred design; architecture in the 20th and 21st centuries; and Islamic art in 11th-14th-century Chinese port cities.

Islamic Art

VCUarts Qatar Dean Amir Berbić, said the symposium is meant to be a vibrant forum of exchange for all participants and attendees.

The Art History programme at VCUarts Qatar is the only undergraduate degree programme of its kind in the Gulf region and offers a distinctive concentration in Islamic art within a global perspective. The programme is designed to focus on the interchange between the Islamic World, the Western World and the non-Islamic cultures of Asia.

According to Dr Sean Roberts, Director of Art History at VCUarts Qatar and one of the symposium’s co-chair, they hoped to provide a forum that encompassed the full range and global expanse of Islamic art and culture.

The event proved more successful than we could have imagined in bringing together a group of speakers, panel chairs, and curators who were more diverse, younger, and more varied in their scholarly background than at previous symposia.’

The 2019 Hamad bin Khalifa Travel Fellowship Recipients were also announced during the symposium. The Hamad bin Khalifa Travel Fellowship was created through sponsorship from Qatar Foundation, VCUarts in Richmond, Virginia and VCUarts Qatar, to provide financial support to scholars who wished to attend the conference.

An exhibition on the sideline of the symposium, ‘The Sea is the Limit’ brought together works by international artists who were addressing the issues of refugees, borders, migration and national identity. Using the language of painting, drawing, sculpture, video, installation and virtual reality, the artists explored some of the complex experiences and emotions associated with borders and migration, statelessness and belonging. The exhibition will run until 7 December and is open to the public.

Since its establishment, the symposium has attracted over 2,400 attendees from every continent, hosted over 100 speakers, and enabled over 90 scholars of Islamic arts and culture to participate to the symposium. For updates and more information, visit

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