The Aga Khan Museum’s annual fundraising gala will take place online this year, aiming to extend friendship across divides and reach a diverse, global audience. Showcasing performances and on-screen conversations with a wide array of luminaries from the worlds of art, film, literature, music and science, the event will also include a special address from Prince Amyn.

Through a bold new format, the event on 24 September aims to highlight the Museum’s contributions during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic in an effort to reconnect and reinvigorate communities through the arts via the theme, “Lighting the Way: The Museum as a Cultural Sanctuary.” This year, the Lapis gala will be free to attend, owing to the generosity of a number of sponsors and donors. 

Presenting Lapis as a free-to-attend online celebration will make it more accessible than ever before, said Henry Kim, the Museum’s Director and CEO. 

“The Aga Khan Museum has represented a beacon of openness, collaboration, and hope in a time of great fear and uncertainty,” he said. “We invite everyone who has been touched by the Museum’s outreach to rejoice in our shared victories this year and help chart a brighter future for our institution and the communities we serve.” 

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Museum closed its doors for 3.5 months earlier this year. Just days into the lockdown, with most staff members working from home, it launched a free-to-use online portal showcasing art from its permanent collection, exclusive performances by local and international artists, thought-provoking talks, and enriching activities for children and families. In total, #MuseumWithoutWalls content has reached more than 2.2 million people worldwide since the platform launched in mid-March. 

In addition, every weekend since April, The Ismaili TV has screened “Sundays at the Museum,” featuring performing artists and discussions on culture and contemporary topics of relevance, attracting interest from members of the Jamat across the globe.

“This year has confronted us with some of the most daunting challenges we have faced in the Museum’s six-year history,” Mr Kim said. “In response, we created a digital oasis of art, learning, and intercultural connection, expanded the global reach of our programmes, provided a lifeline to struggling artists in the community, and successfully reopened the Museum with new, state-of-the-art safety measures in place. None of this would have been possible without the generosity of our Patrons, Friends, and Donors.” 

The name Lapis is inspired by lapis lazuli, the semi-precious stone that for many centuries has been prized for its bright blue colour. Since ancient times, lapis stones have been polished and made into intricate jewellery, carvings, mosaics, ornaments, and vases. 

Hosted by comedian and radio personality Ali Hassan, with talks moderated by author and award-winning broadcaster Ziya Tong, this year’s Lapis gala aims to raise awareness and funds for the Museum’s continuing work, and for Rebuild 2020, a programme to reconnect and reinvigorate communities through the arts. 

Rebuild 2020 initiatives include Blossom Together, a commemorative community tile wall with colourful and hopeful messages for the future; and What’s your Sanctuary, a display of community-generated art, portraying creative resilience in the face of uncertainty. 

With visions of a brighter future, the Aga Khan Museum’s online gala will light the way, shining a spotlight on the power of art to unite people and inspire a more pluralistic world for us all.


The Lapis Digital Benefit will stream on Thursday 24 September at 8 PM EDT. To register your interest, visit the Aga Khan Museum website. The entire gala will be screened again on The Ismaili TV to accommodate time zones in all parts of the world.