One of the world's most unique art collections, curated by Muslim royalty, opened recently not in Dubai, Tehran, London or even Paris — but just over the border in Toronto.

The Canadian city famous for its troubled former mayor and frigid winters is now known among cognoscenti for one of the top Muslim art and culture collections anywhere, curated in a glass and granite space specifically designed to showcase the diversity of Muslim cultures in the West.

The Aga Khan Museum is being hailed as the first museum in North America dedicated to Muslim art and culture — and its location makes a statement that goes beyond the impressive exhibits. The Aga Khan is the spiritual leader, or imam, of the world's 15 million Ismaili Muslims, a major branch of Shia Muslims distinct from Sunnis in their belief in a hereditary line of leaders descending from the prophet Muhammad. He has long argued that the perception of Islam in North America has global repercussions and that art can help the fill the void that drives what he calls conflicts of ignorance.

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