Historic landmark for the Burrell Collection as the Wagner Garden Carpet is to go on display at the Metropolitan Museum, New York

Historic landmark for the Burrell Collection as the Wagner Garden Carpet is to go on display at the Metropolitan Museum, New York

The Burrell Collection’s Wagner Garden Carpet is to be displayed at the Metropolitan Museum, New York’s critically acclaimed Islamic galleries from 10 July 2018 – 7 October 2018.

The partnership between the Burrell Collection, Glasgow, and the Metropolitan Museum, New York, will provide a rare opportunity for members of the public to see the artwork. The Wagner Garden Carpet is considered to be one of the three earliest surviving Persian garden carpets in the world. However the design of this particular carpet is unique and no other examples resembling it or using part of its base-pattern have yet been identified. The exhibition will be the first time that the Wagner Garden Carpet will be on display outside of Great Britain since it was acquired by Sir William Burrell.

To mark the announcement, the Lord Provost of Glasgow will today (9 April 2018) receive a tour of the Islamic galleries by Dr. Sheila Canby, the Patti Cadby Birch Curator in charge of the Department of Islamic Art at the Metropolitan Museum, New York.

Titled Eternal Springtime: A Persian Garden Carpet from the Burrell Collection, the artwork will benefit from a supporting display relating to the importance of gardens in Islamic culture and a full public programme including a symposium and a guest lecture by Noorah al Gailani, Curator of Islamic Civilisations at Glasgow Museums and the Burrell Collection.

Measuring 5309 mm in height and 4318 mm in width, due to its size and previous restrictions on lending beyond the shores of the UK, the Wagner Garden Carpet has rarely been seen on display and has spent most of its time in storage at the Burrell Collection. Most recently the Wagner Garden Carpet was included in the acclaimed BBC and PBS series Civilisations, currently being aired on BBC2.

Named after an early 20th century owner, the Wagner Garden Carpet is a 17th century Persian Kirman pile carpet with a formal garden layout. Unusual for this type of garden carpet, it almost invokes a heavenly walled menagerie that immerses the person sitting on it in its natural but well-ordered world. Reminding the viewer of its cultural roots, its design was inspired by both the pre-Islamic Persian Paradise and the descriptions of the Garden of Heaven in the Qur’an.

Sir William Burrell purchased the Wagner Carpet in 1939 from the Royal Bank of Scotland in Edinburgh and displayed it in his drawing room at Hutton Castle near the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland.

The artwork will be displayed in the Metropolitan Museum’s suite of 15 galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia which re-opened in November 2011. Tracing the course of Islamic civilization over a span of 13 centuries, some 1,200 works of art in all media are on view at any time, representing all major regions and artistic styles.

The display will take place whilst the Burrell Collection undergoes an estimated £66 million refurbishment of its building and redisplay of its extensive Collection. Plans for the refurbishment and redisplay of the Burrell will see the museum’s public space increase with store rooms on the lower ground floor open to the public for the first time. As well as improved facilities including café and retail opportunities, landscaped terraces will link the museum to its parkland setting, enhancing the visitor experience. A re-interpretation of treasures of the Collection will also tell much more of a story about their importance and how they were collected, with an increase in artworks on display across the museum’s collections.

When the Burrell Collection re-opens late 2020, the Wagner Carpet will be focal object of a three-carpet display that explores heavenly gardens in Islamic art as depicted on Persian carpets.

In addition to the Burrell Collection’s partnership with the Metropolitan Museum, some of the most iconic late 19th century French paintings from the Burrell will also tour six international museums in France and Japan for the first time. 58 works from the Burrell will form the inaugural exhibition at the reopened Musée Cantini, Marseilles from 18 May to 23 September 2018. A further exhibition of 80 masterworks of French painting from the Burrell, along with 7 supporting works from Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery will then tour Japan from October 2018 to January 2020.

Lord Provost of Glasgow, Eva Bolander, says,

“The Burrell Collection’s partnership with the Metropolitan Museum, New York demonstrates how the Burrell is operating on a global scale through strategic partnerships, loans and research. To share works from the Burrell Collection with audiences within the UK and internationally, not only strengthens the international reputation of the Burrell, but also of the city to which Sir William gifted this outstanding Collection.”

Chair of Burrell Renaissance, Sir Angus Grossart, comments,

“The Burrell Collection is of world-class quality. Our partnerships across the UK and around the world, ensure our collections, expertise and programmes make wide-reaching impacts beyond the walls of the Burrell.”

Chair, Burrell Trustees, Dr Frances Fowle, comments,

“The Burrell Trustees are delighted to support the loan of one of the world's most spectacular and important carpets to one of the world's greatest museums. The loan will raise international awareness of the significance of Sir William Burrell's collection while the museum undergoes much-needed refurbishment.”

Director of Burrell Renaissance, James Robinson, says,

“Expanding our international reach, reputation and impact is core to the Burrell Collection’s vision that will enable the Collection to engage with the world in new and more meaningful ways. Our partnership with the Metropolitan Museum demonstrates the Burrell’s reach, in geography and material culture, which will see the collection regarded rightly as a global resource.”