by AZALEA AZUAR
THE Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (IAMM) in Kuala Lumpur will be the first in Asia to hold an exhibition which redefines “Oriental Art”.
The “Orientalist Paintings: Mirror or Mirage?” exhibition takes place from June 2 to Oct 15, featuring exceptional paintings from the 19th and early 20th centuries that have been shown outside Europe or America.
“Orientalism” has been misused since Edward W Said popularised it in his book, which was published in 1978, where it is still widely read in universities worldwide but only includes one paragraph on paintings.
Despite this, the appreciation of Orientalist art was growing when it was published, thanks to the descendants of the misrepresented “Oriental” people.
The exhibition reevaluates the depiction of a once well-understood region, when artists travelled to the Orient for discovery and understanding global expansion.
The IAMM has a vast collection of Orientalist paintings, making it a pioneering institution in reclaiming a heritage that sheds light on “East” and “West” relations where it offers insights into people, places and products.
IAMM focuses on what the artists might have seen instead of accusations of misogyny in Orientalist art. Renowned artists include Elisabeth Vigée-Le Brun, Henriette Browne, Frederick Bridgeman and Osman Hamdi Bey.
According to Yayasan Albukhary director Tan Sri Syed Mohamed Albukhary Tan Sri Syed Mohamed Albukhary, this exhibition is the latest chapter in a long story.
“The relationships between Europe, America and what used to be called the ‘Orient’ were explored by the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia 15 years ago.
“In a pioneering exhibition we examined these influences, focusing on the decorative arts of East and West. There was one vital ingredient missing then: Paintings,” he said in a statement.
At the recent launch of the exhibition were Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Communication and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil.
Anwar said “Orientalist Paintings: Mirror or Mirage?” is quite unique because it is unlike any other.
“The Muslims are the mirrors of each other, so the theme is therefore powerful, mystical and philosophical.
“During my days of solitary confinement, I had to read and re-read the entire works of Shakespeare, reminding me that the purpose of play-acting is to hold the mirror up to nature and show virtue,” he said in his speech.
Visit iamm.org.my for more details on the exhibition and other events at IAMM.