Opening soon: Aga Khan Museum, Toronto

Aga Khan Museum will open in Toronto in 2014. The collection will have artworks and artefacts from the Muslim world. Canada’s commitment to pluralism, tolerance and inclusiveness is what attracted the Aga Khan to choose this country and city as the home for the museum. The Aga Khan trust for culture of the Aga Khan Development Network held a foundation ceremony for the museum and neighbouring Ismaili Centre in 2010. These Museum is being built adjacent to the Don Valley Parkway on Wynford Drive, north of Eglinton Avenue East. Link to coordinates on

His Highness the Aga Khan, Karim Al-Hussain Shah, b. 1937), is spiritual leader of the Nizari sect of Ismaili Muslims. Here’s a little history and background, in case you need it: the first Aga Khan was given his title in 1818 by the shah of Persia. The current Aga Khan inherited the title in 1957. Nizaris are a sect that split from the Ismaili branch of Muslims in 1094 over a disagreement about the succession to the caliphate. Most Nizaris now live in the Indian subcontinent. Ismailis are a branch of the Shiite Muslims that seceded from the main group in the eight century because of their belief that Ismail, the son of the sixth Shiite imam, should have become the seventh Imam. (Incidentally, Prince Rahim, age 41, the Aga Khan’s son, recently announced his engagement to Kendra Spears, age 24, an American fashion model.)

The museum will show works from its own collection and temporary international exhibitions of Islamic art. The permanent collection includes well-known miniatures and manuscripts as well as objects in stone, wood, ivory, and glass, and metalwork, ceramics, and works on paper and parchment. The plan for temporary exhibitions is focused on highlighting the diversity in Islamic arts and cultures. They will explore innovative topics including the connections between Islam and other cultures within specific contexts such as the arts or sciences. A series of well-received exhibitions in European cities have given items in the permanent collection a wide audience.

The museum plans on facilitating continued cultural exchanges between Islamic and western communities. Its educational programs are designed for individuals of all ages, from school-children to researchers.

And, why yes—I’d love to teach an Islamic art survey course or related course using this museums resources!

Fumihiko Maki is the architect for the museum. Previous works of his include the World Trade Center Tower 4, NYC, and the Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo, Izumo City, Shimane, Japan. The museum is designed with a central courtyard around which the various functions and spaces will revolve.

Charles Correa is the architect for the Ismaili Centre which shares the site with the Museum.

Vladimir Djurovic designed the surrounding park with ten hectares of land and green-space.

Dr Michael Brand, executive Director of the Art Gallery NSW, Australia, was previously the consulting director of the Toronto Aga Khan Museum.

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