Kuwaiti art exhibit security 'enhanced' with outbreak of war WAR IN THE GULF

January 23, 1991|By Eric Siegel

Toba Rochberg pointed to a flowered ceramic bowl made in Iraq centuries ago, one of more than 100 items covering more than 1,000 years of Islamic art on display at the Walters Art Gallery.

"How could you not love it?" asked Ms. Rochberg, a Baltimore woman who was visiting "Islamic Art and Patronage: Selections from Kuwait" for the second time since the traveling exhibit of works assembled by Kuwait's exiled ruling family opened early last month.

Ms. Rochberg said the Persian Gulf war had "nothing to do with" her decision to revisit the exhibit yesterday, this time with her brother.

"I don't think anybody can feel anything about the war with this exhibit," she said. "It's totally apolitical."

Ms. Rochberg, a self-described "observant Jew," asked, "Does that bother me with this?"

"No, of course not," she answered. "Art has no religion."

A Walters official said attendance at the exhibit, which runs through Feb. 17, has not yet noticeably increased since the outbreak of war last week.

"There doesn't seem to be any direct response on the part of the public," said spokesman Richard Gorelick, who said attendance has been "more than a typical exhibition, but less than a blockbuster."

He said the museum had taken unspecified additional security measures in connection with the show. The works on display, part of a larger collection that had been permanently housed in the Kuwait National Museum, were in the Soviet Union when Iraq invaded the oil emirate in August.

"Security has been enhanced here," he said. "We're in touch with all the proper local, state and federal authorities."

Mr. Gorelick described the safety measures as "precautionary" but would not elaborate.

Those measures were not readily apparent yesterday to a half-dozen or so visitors intently looking at the works ranging from textiles to figural ornaments.

Judy Plott was there with her parents, Frank and Betsy Prior, who were visiting from Aiken, S.C.

Ms. Plott said she always took her parents to the Walters when they visited but added, "Present events definitely made us make an effort to see the exhibit."

"The history is fascinating," said Mrs. Prior, adding, "It's hard to relate this to a war."

But Mary Pollack, a junior history major at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, said she didn't think she would have come to the exhibit if not for the war.

"It makes it a little more real," she said.

"We don't know a lot about that area," she added. "The art is part of the culture. It does teach you a little more."

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