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LACMA to lend Damascus room, Islamic art to new Saudi museum

LACMA to lend Damascus room, Islamic art to new Saudi museum
The Damascus room, a rare intact example of an 18th century reception room from a wealthy home in Syria, was acquired by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2014. It is being conserved and restored in partnership with the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, a museum under construction in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, and set to open in 2016. (Museum Associates / Los Angeles County Museum of Art)

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art announced Tuesday its intention to lend more than 130 pieces of its Islamic art collection to a museum under construction in Saudi Arabia.

The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture,  scheduled to open in 2016, will show the LACMA pieces along with a new acquisition, a never-before shown 18th century room from a home in Damascus, Syria.

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The Damascus room, dated to 1766, is an example of the reception areas in upper-class homes where the head of household entertained honorable guests. Though most historic homes where this kind of room could be found have been destroyed, this particular example was dismantled intact in the al-Bahsa quarter of Damascus, LACMA said.

The Damascus room has painted and carved wood walls, a stone wall fountain and an arch of colorful plaster voussoirs. The room, acquired last spring, is being conserved and restored with financial support from the Abdulaziz Center and the Los Angeles-based Friends of Heritage Preservation. It will ship to Saudi Arabia for its premiere once that work has been completed. After two years on view, it will return to Los Angeles.

Other LACMA pieces to be lent include an Ottoman box embellished with tortoiseshell and mother-of-pearl, a painting of a prince from the Mughal empire of India and an enameled and gilded glass lamp, probably from Cairo, inscribed with a passage from the Koran.

Funded by the national oil company, Saudi Aramco, the Abdulaziz Center has been under construction since May 2008 in Dhahran.

The LACMA partnership comes just before the L.A. museum is scheduled to open an exhibition on contemporary Middle Eastern art, "Islamic Art Now," on Jan. 31. The show will feature the works of about 25 artists from the Arab world.

Follow the reporter on Twitter: @TrevellAnderson.

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