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National Museum, Sultanate of Oman APRIL 2016

Official Guidebook of a Great New Omani Institution

The National Museum, Sultanate of Oman, is dedicated to preserving and celebrating Oman’s rich cultural heritage. It has drawn inspiration from the international museum community – experts from Tate in London, the Hermitage in St Petersburg and the Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon were consulted in its development. However, at heart, the museum is a great new Omani institution, showcasing the finest examples of the nation’s history and culture. 

The collections – which feature more than 7,000 items – are housed in tailor-made buildings in Muscat. It is an innovative museum: the first public building in the Sultanate that includes advanced facilities for people with special needs, including Arabic Braille. It hosts the first museum Learning Centre in the Sultanate, which is designed to fulfill one of the new museum’s main purposes: to pass on knowledge of Omani history to the next generation. 

We are delighted to have collaborated with the museum to create the official guidebook to this major new international institution, published to mark its grand opening on April 16. Designed in an appealing compact format and illustrated throughout, it features highlights from the museum’s galleries including The Land and the People, Maritime History, Arms and Armour, Civilisation in the Making, Aflaj, Currency, Prehistory and Ancient History, Splendours of Islam, Oman and the World, Intangible Heritage and Oman’s modern Renaissance.

The guidebook’s front cover, pictured below, features a sa’idi-style khanjar dagger, which is the national symbol of Oman.


Mosaics of St Paul's MARCH 2016

Exquisite works of art in one of Britain's best known cathedrals

As you enter St Paul’s cathedral, look closely.

It’s tempting not to – it gets busy at the weekends – and, when you’re surrounded by swarms of iPhone-wielding tourists all intent on climbing as high as possible, you want to keep your eyes on the people around you. 

But look closely. And, whether you’re lucky enough to be there in the blessed silence of early morning or being elbowed by fellow tourists, you will be treated to the same glorious vision. 

The mosaics have not always been there. The cathedral was built in 1711 – an austere, striking monument to the power of God in the near-Puritan style of the eighteenth century. It’s no wonder that Christopher Wren, the architect, shunned ornate design. Glitzy, glistening churches were seen as dangerously Catholic: subversive, ungodly and – worst of all – French. The clear, clean space was considered to be the perfect way to represent good, honest, English faith. God’s grace could fill it up to the brim, without any interference from human aesthetics. 

But by the mid-nineteenth century, attitudes were changing. Papism was no longer viewed as a foreign taint, and worshippers longed for a little more life in their religious buildings. Even Queen Victoria lamented that St Paul’s was ‘dull, cold, dreary and dingy’. 

With a gauntlet tossed down by the monarch, the premier artists of the time responded – volunteering their services to ‘humanise’ the cathedral. William Blake Richmond designed a series of mosaics – the ones you see all around you today. Look closer. Look as close as you possibly can. Thousands upon thousands of tiny tiles, known as tesserae, sit next to each other in the world’s most beautiful jigsaw, forming Biblical stories, saints and sinners and angels, prophets and Evangelists and heroes, Bible quotes and readings. Eve, with her mane of flame-red hair, is attended to by the animals she has helped name; a lioness dips her head to Adam’s foot in a potent image of Man’s dominion over the natural world. The creation of the animals of the land, water and air is portrayed in striking, flawless colour – greens and blues and golds and reds, the bright feathers of a peacock and the ridges of a crocodile’s hide. 

Keep looking. Stories are told in the mosaics: a consoling, gentle-eyed Gabriel reaches out to the Virgin Mary to tell her that she will bear a son, and that she should not fear the will of God. Orpheus strums his lyre: lovelorn and mourning for Eurydice, who is consigned to the murk of the Underworld. A pointed-faced devil reaches out for Eve, murmuring temptation to her. 

Scala’s Mosaic’s of St Paul’s Cathedral tells the tale of the mosaics from their conception to realisation, exploring the techniques that were used to transform an artist’s vision to stunning reality. It features beautiful new photography, and is in itself a tiny work of art.


Bo Bartlett MARCH 2016

A Master of American Realism

Bo Bartlett’s artwork has the clarity of early-morning dreams – the sort that snag your brain partway between wakefulness and slumber, and stir up the most vivid storms of imagination. The characters stare out from the confines of canvas, unafraid and demanding to be noticed – whether a girl standing before a blackboard, her flatly intelligent gaze reminiscent of a raven, or a bright-eyed bride, her veil spilling out behind her like a flurry of snow. Bartlett’s paintings don’t wait, placid and delicate, to be admired: they grab your attention and keep it.

The America of Bartlett’s paintings is mythic: all wide, wild skies and complex, awe-inspiring narratives that weave along the boundary of reality, occasionally dipping into the surreal. A plane, half stuck in the desert, has a charged aura of danger to it that chills the skin.

Scala has published a mid-career retrospective in anticipation of the opening of the new Bo Bartlett Centre in his hometown of Columbus, as part of the Columbus State University College of the Arts. It is a remarkable volume: the first full publication to document Bartlett’s evolution as an artist: his personal creative process and the history of his work. It places his work in the context of a long, magnificent tradition of American realism. Alongside exemplary text by David Houston, the Executive Director of the new centre and an expert in all things Bo Bartlett, and Carter Radcliff – an esteemed American art critic, writer and poet, the author of numerous books on art – rests a catalogue of beautiful illustrations; images of his artwork that pull you into another world, where the sky is bright and endless, and legends run rampant.