Colorful Islamic calligraphy that translates to: "In the name of God, the most gracious, the most merciful."

Islamic calligraphy that translates to: “In the name of God, the most gracious, the most merciful.”
Image credit: Shutterstock

Sheikh Mohammed Al-Thani is a Qatari national who lives in New York City. He’s watched helplessly as hundreds of stereotypes about his faith and nationality continue to sweep the nation.

But Al-Thani will be helpless no more. In order to counteract these misunderstandings, Al-Thani is launching a cultural space in downtown Manhattan: a 2,500 sq. ft. gallery for art and cultural exhibitions from the Arab world and other Islamic countries.

Called the Institute of Arab and Islamic Art (IAIA), his gallery will be a non-profit center with free or inexpensive admission, supported by patrons and donors. Profit is not its purpose. Rather, it will serve the purpose of increasing acceptance via exposure.

“It made absolute sense to build an institute that would not only showcase the breadth of art and culture from the Arab and Islamic worlds, but also challenge certain stereotypes and misconceptions that hinder cross-cultural understanding,” Al-Thani said to The Art Newspaper. “In a city with a mosaic of cultural institutions like the Jewish Museum, Asia Society, Swiss Institute, Whitney Museum of American Art and many more, I was exposed to art from all over the world in this one city.”

Al-Thani’s venue is set to open in May, and will hold as many as four shows a year, along with a residency program for New-York-based Arab or Islamic artists.

While the exact location of the IAIA has not yet been announced, it will be in downtown, in the vicinity of where plans for the misnamed “Ground Zero Mosque” were abandoned due to public hostility.

“We exist because of an ever-challenging environment,” said Al-Thani referring to his Institute. “And the current political climate in the US will only encourage us to continue our hard work and make sure that through our institute’s program, we will be able to engage the community to learn more about our cultures and differences.”