What does sanctuary mean to you? Step inside an immersive and contemplative space dedicated to exploring the concept of safe haven. Woven rugs designed by 36 leading artists from around the world, including Mona Hatoum and Brendan Fernandes, reflect their personal responses to the word sanctuary — whether that means refuge, sacred space, place of beauty, or something entirely unique.
The 36 artworks are spectacularly varied, reflecting the great diversity of the artists’ heritages, philosophies, and histories — many of which include experiences as refugees and migrants.
The artists, representing 22 countries, were invited to create designs for the 4-by-6-ft. wool rugs. Artisans with ALRUG in Lahore, Pakistan, then wove the rugs following centuries-old regional techniques and using more than 100 different colours.
Sanctuary’s innovative gallery design, developed in collaboration with Sarajevo-born artist and architecture historian Dr. Azra Akšamija, honours Earth as a sanctuary for all life. To make this vision a reality, the Museum’s Exhibitions team sourced as many sustainable building materials as they could get their hands on — including 3,000 second-hand t-shirts.
Sanctuary comes at a critical moment in world history, where one person is forcibly displaced every two seconds because of conflict or persecution, according to the United Nations.
Rug designs have often been informed by personal narratives and community. Patterns, symbols, colour, and material were traditionally selected to embody stories of history, place, purpose, and faith.
Sanctuary was originally organized by the FOR-SITE Foundation, a San Francisco-based non-profit dedicated to the idea that art can inspire fresh thinking and important dialogue about our natural and cultural environment. It was first exhibited at San Francisco's Fort Mason Chapel from October 7, 2017 to March 11, 2018.
Adel Abidin | b. 1973, Iraq
Ai Weiwei | b. 1957, China
Aimé Mpane | b. 1968, Democratic Republic of Congo
Ala Ebtekar | b. 1978, United States
Alfredo Jaar | b. 1956, Chile
Ammar al-Beik | b. 1972, Syria
Ana Teresa Fernández | b. 1981, Mexico
Arwa Abouon | b. 1982, Libya
Brendan Fernandes | b. 1979, Kenya
Cornelia Parker | b. 1956, United Kingdom
Diana Al-Hadid | b. 1981, Syria
Emily Jacir | b. 1972, Palestine
Hamra Abbas | b. 1976, Kuwait
Hank Willis Thomas | b. 1976, USA
Hayv Kahraman | b. 1981, Iraq
Jamal Cyrus | b. 1973, USA
Jeffrey Gibson | b. 1972, USA
John Akomfrah | b. 1957, Ghana
Julio César Morales | b. 1966, Mexico
Marcos Ramírez ERRE | b. 1961, Mexico
Meleko Mokgosi | b. 1981, Botswana
Miguel Angel Ríos | b. 1943, Argentina
Mohammad Bozorgi | b. 1978, Iran
Mona Hatoum | b. 1952, Lebanon
Nicholas Galanin | b. 1979, USA
Sanaz Mazinani | b. 1978, Iran
Uman | b. 1980, Somalia
Ranu Mukherjee | b. 1966, USA
Rashid Rana | b. 1968, Pakistan
Sandow Birk | b. 1962, USA
Sherin Guirguis | b. 1974, Egypt
Shirazeh Houshiary | b. 1955, Iran
Shiva Ahmadi | b. 1975, Iran
Susan Hefuna | b. 1962, Germany
Tammam Azzam | b. 1980, Syria
Thaier Helal | b. 1967, Syria
Curated by Cheryl Haines, FOR-SITE Foundation and Dr. Michael Chagnon, Aga Khan Museum.
Live virtual tour of Sanctuary with Museum Curator Dr. Michael Chagnon
Collections Conversation: Bringing Sanctuary's Sustainability-Focused Gallery Design to Life
Virtual walk-through of Sanctuary #1: Sanctuary in the Age of Displacement
Virtual walk-through of Sanctuary #2: Sanctuary of the Mind
Virtual walk-through of Sanctuary #3: Universal Sanctuary