Thursday, February 23, 2012

Communications Through Art

Last Sunday, my wife and I visited the galleries of Islamic Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. These magnificent works came from a vast geographic area, which includes present-day Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Turkey, India, Spain and Morocco. Many of those countries were part of the Ottoman Empire (between the 13th and 16th centuries) and were thus strongly influenced by the Mughals, originally from India, who brought with them a pervasive Muslim influence, tempered by the artistic traditions of Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism.

What, you are no doubt thinking, does this have to do with communications management?

Well, this fabulous art collection communicated to me that it was produced in societies that encouraged free artistic expression, and possibly free expression in other areas as well. For example, one of the researchers speaking on the museum’s Acoustiguide audio tour reported that one of the principles of Islam “was to let everyone practice their own religion.” This policy resulted in the Golden Age of Spain, a cultural cornucopia during the 15th century.

As you walk through this exhibit of great textiles, carpets, ceramics and metalwork, paintings, books and jewelry, one can only think about the changes that have taken place in several of these countries, where freedom has been restricted either recently or for long periods of time.

It all made me realize once again that art tells a story — not only of the artists that made the work, but also how people lived in the society in which the art was created. While great pieces were no doubt designed as gifts for royalty, the range of the pieces in this exhibit communicated a society where people grew and expanded their interests. It conveyed wealth, success and pride in the culture. None of this could have occurred without a desire of leadership to communicate these themes to the world. Communications, in this sense, has survived centuries.

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