Exhibit displays 1001 faces of Orientalism
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
The exhibition ‘1001 Faces of Orientalism’ hosts significant works of art particularly those produced during the late Ottoman era.
Sabancı University Sakıp Sabancı Museum (SSM) explores the many faces of Orientalism with a new exhibition that opened on April 24. The exhibition studies the 19th century Orientalism analyzing its effects on diverse areas such as literature, archaeology, painting, architecture, universal exhibitions, photography and fashion.
The works on display include rare books, paintings, photographs from archaeological excavation sites, universal exhibitions, examples of Ottoman architecture, interior and stage decorations, costumes, studio photographs and souvenirs. Exploring the term both as a scientific and imaginary field, the exhibition starts with the “Eastern Studies and Orientalism.”
The exhibition examines Orientalism from a multi-dimensional perspective, during an era when the East became the focus of great interest in Europe, due to Napoléon Bonaparte’s Egyptian Campaign in 1798 along with the strong debates following Edward Said’s book Orientalism, published in 1978.
The exhibition hosts significant works of art produced in this period, in addition to some pieces from the late Ottoman era. Examples of Oriental literature which contributed to the Eastern stereotypes are presented in this section. Illustrated copies of “The Thousand and One Nights,” translated first by Antoine Galland from Arabic into French, are included in this first section of the exhibition.
In another section of the exhibition, Eastern antiques are presented with photographs that portray the local excavation workers as “oriental samples.” The locals are presented as if they are part of the decoration of a stage. Orientalist paintings by Osman Hamdi are also included in this section due to the artificial nature of the compositions which also interested the West.
Looking at Orientalism from the outside
The goal of the exhibition is not to see Orientalism as a unilateral discourse under the control of and centered on the West that divides cultures into two polarized groups, but also to look at this phenomenon from outside the European context and distinguish its multiple, diverse, and sometimes contradictory aspects.
SSM Director Nazan Ölçer said that they had been working on the exhibition for one and half years, and continued, “The exhibition is based on a wide range of areas including literature, archeology, music, photography and fashion, under the support of historians and experts in the history of art. We present the concept of Orientalism in all mentioned areas, by broadly examining the scene after Napoléon’s Egyptian Campaign, which went beyond its name and turned into a fairly academic and scientific invasion, triggering in the West a huge interest toward the East. This interest led to great transformations in the Western arts and culture. We invite everyone to discover Orientalism together, which has been more permanent than any other movement in the 19th century and has brought a long-term change to the art scene of the 20th century.”
Following the opening of the exhibition, the conference program on today and tomorrow will present comparative perspectives on Orientalism through paintings, architecture, music and cinema. The lectures will be given by the professors also on the advisory board of the exhibition.
“1001 Faces of Orientalism” will remain open until August 11 and host additional activities.