New Galleries for Art of the Islamic Worlds Ongoing

“Houston has the largest Muslim population in Texas, and, accordingly, the museum’s dedication to Islamic cultural heritage moves beyond the realm of aesthetics.” —Art Newspaper

The Museum’s galleries for art of the Islamic worlds present, for the first time, the full extent of the MFAH holdings in Islamic art, enhanced by a significant selection of Persian masterworks on extended loan from the distinguished collection of Hossein Afshar. Carefully assembled over the past 50 years, the Afshar Collection conveys the rich artistic traditions of Iranian civilization from the 7th to 19th century, in exquisite paintings, significant ceramics, precious inlaid metal ware, and finely woven silk fabrics and carpets.

The MFAH has devoted permanent gallery space to Islamic art since 2012, and the new Afshar galleries nearly double previous display space for Islamic art. Hundreds of objects spanning more than 1,000 years reflect the breadth of historic Islamic lands, including present-day Afghanistan, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Morocco, Pakistan, Spain, Syria, Tunisia, Türkiye, and Uzbekistan.

Gallery Overview
With nearly 6,000 square feet of space, the galleries highlight a trove of major, and in many cases rare, objects never before displayed in such depth. Showcasing the similarities and diversity of art across cultures, communities, regions, and time, the presentation is organized into six galleries that outline fundamental aspects of Islamic art.

  • Introduction to Art of the Islamic Worlds
  • Early Iranian Art from the Hossein Afshar Collection
  • Later Iranian Art from the Hossein Afshar Collection
  • Sacred and Secular Arts of the Book
  • Blue and White between China and Iran
  • The Fabric of Life: Textiles and Carpets of Islamic Lands

The galleries are a culmination of the strong partnership between the Museum, Houston’s dynamic communities, and a major, longtime initiative at the MFAH to develop special exhibitions, new scholarship, signature acquisitions, and dynamic public programs in Islamic art. The extended loans from the Afshar Collection are the second such partnership initiated by the Museum. In 2012, a landmark agreement with The al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait, placed several hundred objects from that exceptional collection of art from Islamic lands on extended loan to the MFAH.

The opening of the Art of the Islamic Worlds galleries marks more than 15 years since the launch of the Art of the Islamic Worlds initiative at the MFAH. The effort was established in 2007 by a patron group unique to Houston: philanthropists with strong cultural-heritage links to historically Islamic lands, who have committed to supporting acquisitions of Islamic art across centuries and cultures—from North Africa to China; Central Asia to South Asia. Since the initiative’s start, exhibitions, acquisitions, scholarly research, and international collaboration have brought the achievements of Islamic artistic traditions to Houston and global audiences.

Multimedia Guide
The Art of the Islamic Worlds multimedia guide offers audio commentary on selected works of art, and videos about related topics. To listen in the galleries, please bring your mobile device and headphones.

Galleries for Art of the Islamic Worlds / Opened March 5, 2023

in memory of his mother, Fatema Afshar 

Gallery renovations have been supported
by generous grants from:
Ambassador and Mrs. Hushang Ansary
Nancy and Rich Kinder
Franci Neely
Jay Jones and Terry Wayne Jones
Rania and Jamal Daniel

Lead Corporate Underwriter:
Aramco Americas


Caroline Wiess Law Building
1001 Bissonnet Street
Houston, TX 77005
Map & Directions