The Mercantile Effect:
On art and exchange in the Islamicate world during 17th – 18th centuries

The Courtauld Institute of Art − Pera Museum − Gingko Library Conference
18-19 November 2016 Istanbul and London

Convened by Dr Sussan Babaie, The Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London
Dr Melanie Gibson, Editor of the Gingko Library Arts Series
Dr Barbara Schwepcke, Gingko Library


From Agra to Aleppo, Bandar Abbas to Marseilles, Cairo to Canton, Goa to Zanzibar; peoples as diverse as Armenians, Chinese, Arabs, Persians and Europeans, traversed long distances along land and maritime trade routes moving art things and their attendant ideas, ideals, and technologies. The development of mercantile networks and global trade routes in the early modern period relied on the emergence of new institutional and cultural methods of exchange. The formulation of diverse collective ventures was organized through the Dutch, English and French East India companies and additionally by the establishment of a colonial presence in the New World by the Dutch and Portuguese, ensuring a territorial sphere of power and increased influence through trade. Material culture – including building ideas – connected aspirations towards prestigious foreign and exotic objects, new luxuries in manufactured textiles, inlaid metalwork, paper products, glazed ceramic and painted porcelain vessels.

This conference invites papers that take a trans-disciplinary approach, looking at the specifics of art objects and ideas. The focus will be on those regions where Islam was the religion of the majority and informed the cultural position, but did not necessarily impose a religious mandate for action in the making and exchange of goods. We ask for reflections through art things and material culture on the mechanisms of exchange and transmission of ideas and their effects on the cultural spaces between local histories and global networks within the Islamicate world in the 17th and 18th centuries. The conference takes place in Istanbul, a city whose long history as a nexus of trade and cultural exchange embodies many of the possibilities of this intellectual inquiry.

The Gingko conference series brings together scholars from the East and the West. The Gingko conferences are designed to complement the Gingko Library, a project to publish one hundred books over the next ten years that present the latest work in all languages and across the full range of humanities, social sciences and sciences relating to the MENA region.

The conference will include a gala reception on the evening of Friday 17 November. Hosted by Professor Baha Tanman; the gala will launch the first title to be published in the Gingko Library Art Series, Art, Trade, and Culture in the Near East and India: From the Fatimids to the Mughals, to which Professor Tanman has contributed. A literary event on the evening of Saturday 18 November on the theme of ‘From the West-östlicher Divan to the Payam-e- Mashriq’ will conclude the conference.

The presentations and discussions will be recorded and live-streamed to an audience at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, and online to reach the widest possible audience.

Funding opportunities to cover travel and accommodation are available for scholars selected to speak at the conference.

Selected papers delivered at the conference will be published together in a volume in the Gingko Library, following peer review. Speakers at the conference may also develop their papers into book-length proposals to be submitted to the Gingko Library.

The Courtauld Institute of Art is the world’s leading centre for the study of art history, conservation and curating.

The Gingko Library is a registered charity (no. 1158548). It is committed to fostering intercultural dialogue and better understanding between the West and the MENA region.

The Pera Museum is a private museum founded by the Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation with the aim of offering an outstanding range of diverse high quality culture and art services. The Pera Museum has evolved to become a leading and distinguished cultural center in one of the liveliest quarters of Istanbul.

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