Culture

An Orientalism Exhibit + 3 Contemporary Moroccan Artists

Apr 02, 2015

Yasmina Bouziane, U.S.-born, New York-based and of Moroccan and French heritage, is a noted visual artist whose work spans photography and filmmaking, often collaborating with her screenwriter-sister Anissa. However, perhaps Yasmina is best-known for her powerful self-portraits in photography.

Yasmina is one of three Middle Eastern female artists – together with Lalla Essaydi and Majida Khattari – who were commissioned by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts to respond with contemporary pieces for the Marvels and Mirages Of Orientalism exhibit running through May 31. The New York Times elaborates: “The French painter Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant (1845-1902) earned praise during his lifetime for his opulent depictions of North Africa — dappled with lush fabrics, endless horizons and women draped seductively across his canvases. In recent years, though, his work has undergone scrutiny for minimizing and stereotyping the region.”

  • Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
  • Marvels and Mirages of Orientalism
  • The Favourite of the Emir - About 1879
  • Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant
  • Oil on canvas, 142.2 x 221 cm
  • Signed l.l.: Benj-Constant
  • Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art
  • Courtesy of the United States Naval Academy Museum - 2010.95.1

The Marvels and Mirages of Orientalism exhibit, has the subtitle “From Spain to Morocco, Benjamin-Constant in His Time” and has already attracted over 50,000 visitors. It is described by the Museum as follows: “The exhibition reveals six iconic aspects of Orientalism, offering a dual reading of its fictional subjects, juxtaposing staged pictorial settings with documented realities. Drawings and photographs round out this exploration of Moorish Spain and sharifian Morocco, between seductive mirages and the hidden realities of a colonial republic.”

Regarding the three contemporary artists named above, the Museum website states:

“The exhibition offered the Museum the opportunity to add works by the three contemporary Moroccan artists included in the show – Yasmina Bouziane, Lalla Essaydi and Majida Khattari – to its fledgling collection of contemporary art from the region. One of the fastest growing art markets in recent years, contemporary Middle Eastern art is also one of the most exciting art scenes in which women artists figure prominently.

“The photographs of Bouziane, Essaydi and Khattari create an intelligent visual and conceptual dialogue with the French nineteenth-century artist’s paintings. All three artists engage with the visual codes of Orientalism. The fact that they are women, Orientalism’s favourite subject, affords them a unique position to subvert stereotypes from the inside, using the very visual constructs used to create them.

“Their position as outsiders and their biculturalism – the three live and work in the West – allow them to target both Western and Middle Eastern restrictive definitions of Arab womanhood. While Bouziane, Essaydi and Khattari all reappropriate Orientalist signs, they employ different strategies to transcend their inherent polarization.”

  • Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
  • Marvels and Mirages of Orientalism
  • Untitled No. 6, alias “The Signature” - 1993–94
  • Yasmina Bouziane, Born in Washington in 1968
  • From the series “Inhabited by Imaginings We Did Not Choose” - 1993–94
  • Chromogenic print mounted on aluminum, 1/10 - 40 x 30 cm
  • The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
  • Purchase, Peter Dey Fund

We’d also like to call attention to a number of other notable Middle Eastern women who are making their mark on the artistic scene. U.S.-based, Palestinian-Iraqi artist Sama Alshaibi is another rising artist, whose first book “Sama Alshaibi: Sand Rushes In” was launched last week at the opening of her exhibit at the Ayyam Gallery London.

Born in Lebanon in 1972, Lamia Joreige is a visual artist and filmmaker who makes her base in Beirut. She is also a co-founder and co-director of the Beirut Art Center, a non-profit space dedicated to contemporary art in Lebanon. Lamia was one of the 45+ artists whose work was featured at the New Museum in New York in 2014. The exhibit, Here and Elsewhere, offered a comprehensive survey of contemporary art from the Middle East and North America. Other young (born after 1970) Middle Eastern women whose art was part of the exhibit included:

Explore and enjoy!