From Damascus Mosques to New-York Salons

Reflections on the Trade of Islamic Architectural Ceramic

4ᵉ Congrès des études sur le Moyen-Orient et les Mondes musulmans, 28 juin – 2 juillet 2021

In 2018, Christie’s sold parts of the collection of the New-York artist Lockwood De Forest, composed of so-called Damascus architectural tiles. Lockwood De Forest, in Damascus in the 1880s, was willing to pay five dollars for individual tiles and more for complete sets, a fortune for the time. In 1972, John Carswell attached the 1,200 tiles in the collection to monuments still in elevation, mostly mosques, without questioning the way they were acquired.
Christie’s auction ended a lean period for the Islamic architectural ceramics market, caused by the wars in Syria and the looting of archaeological sites by ISIL. In this particularly gloomy context, the Lockwood De Forest collection and its auction raise questions about the enthusiasm of collectors for Islamic architectural decoration and its impact on the conversation of cultural heritage.
This intervention proposes to analyse the ethical and legal questions surrounding the Islamic architectural ceramics market through the example of Mamluk and Ottoman productions.

Full English text coming soon.