Featured Exhibition Photographs: “Echoes of the Orient”

Norbert Schiller Collection, Unknown Photographer

One of my greatest accomplishments as a collector of 19th and 20th century photographs from the Middle East and North Africa is to make the images accessible to those who are interested in a visual exploration of the past. It is for this reason that I created the website Photorientalist. What is even more fulfilling is when a gallery or museum discovers my collection and expresses interest in featuring some of the works.

Photographs Curtesy Norbert Schiller Collection

In December 2023, I was contacted by the head curator at the Abu Dhabi-based Bassam Freiha Art Foundation , Michaela Watrelot, who came across my website while sourcing photographs for the museum’s inaugural exhibition titled Echoes of the Orient. Ms. Watrelot was interested in displaying images alongside paintings with the same Orientalist theme. The museum describes the focus of the inaugural exhibition as follows:

“Centered on the theme of femininity as envisioned through the Orientalist art movement – from candid representations of odalisques in the haram to depictions of maternal affection – the exhibition navigates the complex interplay of reality and fantasy which has historically defined Orientalist art.”

Norbert Schiller Collection (L to R)Gabriel Lekegian, Hippolyte Arnoux, Unknown photographer

The 13 photographs selected to fit this theme were taken in Ottoman Constantinople, Egypt, and Algeria by some of the most prominent photographers at the time including Gabriel Lékégian, Jean Pascal Sébah, Tancrede Dumas, Hippolyte Arnoux, Aram Alban and Alexandre Leroux.

Norbert Schiller Collection (L to R)Pascal Sebah, Alexandre Leroux, Pascal Sebah

The museum’s role, according to its Mr. Freiha, is to act as a venue to showcase his extensive Orientalist art collection while also featuring other works from the Middle East as well as other regions. The museum also aims to encourage emerging talent, foster dialogue, art education, and engage the public with the arts.

Echoes of the Orient opened on 4 March and viewing is currently free of charge.

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