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Indepth Arts News:

"Harem Fantasies and the New Scheherazades"
2003-02-18 until 2003-05-18
Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona
Barcelona, , ES Spain

The Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona presents HAREM FANTASIES AND THE NEW SCHEHERAZADES, an exhibition conceived and directed by the Moroccan writer Fatema Mernissi, author, among other books, of Scheherazade Goes West: Different Cultures, Different Harems, in which she reflects on the theme of this exhibition. Mernissi says that what prompted her to write the book was the realisation that Western journalists — men — have an idea about the harem which is very different to the reality.

This idea finds its iconographical references in certain Western artists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, whose fascination with the theme of the harem raised it to the category of myth. Eastern artists, meanwhile, had represented the harem according to their own aesthetic canons, creating a very different reality to the one reflected by the West.

The exhibition, produced and organised by the CCCB, brings together Eastern and Western representations of the reality and the myth of the harem, allowing visitors to contrast their different views of beauty and love.

Harem Fantasies and the New Scheherazades brings together 150 works, some of which are regarded as masterpieces of the history of Western art: Delacroix, Ingres, Gerôme, Picasso, Matisse, Fortuny, Constant and Boucher are some of the artists represented in the show.

Alongside them are Eastern miniatures, engravings and books by Persian and Turkish masters and from India’s Mughal dynasty, plus original photographs documenting the life of the inhabitants of the harem.

The show closes with a selection of works by contemporary artists from the Near East and North Africa who challenge the very basis of traditional attitudes to women in these areas. They are the new Scheherazades: Jananne Al-Ani, Ghada Amer, Samta Benyahia, Shadi Gadirian, Ghazel, Selma Gurbuz, Susan Hefuna, Malekeh Nayini, Shirin Neshat, Houria Niati, Raeda Saadeh, Zineb Sedira and Nadine Touma.

The exhibition includes outstanding works on loan from such foremost institutions as the Musée du Louvre and the Musée Guimet, the Musée National d’Art Moderne-Centre Pompidou, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and the Musée Picasso in Paris; the Museum of Topkapi and the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art in Istanbul, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York, among others.

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