The early conversations between Nasser and his wife, Hussa, yielded additional insights to the role the objects could play in the greater community. The couple recognised the importance of the objects as artefacts of their culture; as keys to understanding the full history of an area and people still largely unexplored. It is with this in mind that Nasser began discussing large and long-term loans to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH).
In 2012, Mahrukh Tarapur, an independent researcher and long-time acquaintance of The al-Sabah Collection, initiated a conversation between Nasser, his wife and co-owner of the collection, Hussa and MFAH Director Gary Tinterow.
The topic: an extended loan of objects from The al-Sabah Collection to the MFAH. The rationale: to expose a new audience to the understanding that comes from the cultural, trade, and governance histories present in a well-curated exhibition.
The initial agreement between The al-Sabah Collection and the MFAH was for less than 100 objects, to be displayed in a new Arts of Islamic Lands: Selections from The al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait exhibition opening 25 January 2013. In its first year the exhibition attracted almost 50,000 visitors, hundreds of school classes and copious amounts of media attention. Education and outreach programmes inspired by the exhibition were also well attended by children and adults, adding greatly to the overall impact of the partnership.
The success of the original effort led to an expansion of the program in 2015. Instead of 67 objects, today more than 200 objects from the collection are on display at the MFAH and the accompanying community programmes have grown as well. The sophistication of the supporting classes, lectures and school curriculum have also grown, as active participants have absorbed the baseline information and are now looking for more comprehensive, in-depth offerings.
“Art is the best and most important testimonial and ambassador for what past generations produced, of how they thought, felt and lived, . . .” The truth of the statement is evident in the by-products of the MFAH partnership with The al-Sabah Collection. For Sheikh Nasser, the ability to accomplish this was the true beauty of the objects – even more than the obvious aesthetic appeal. This is what motivated the partnership; this is what he celebrated.