04 Mar 2024 - 15 Aug 2024

Echoes of the Orient

Bassam Freiha Art Foundation


Bassam Freiha Art Foundation’s (BFAF) inaugural exhibition, Echoes of the Orient, will open on 4 March 2024 and feature works from the Orientalist movement from H.E. Bassam Freiha’s private collection juxtaposed with 19th century photography, and works by renowned contemporary and modern Arab artists.

Curated by BFAF Director of Exhibitions Michaela Watrelot, Echoes of the Orient offers a window into the West’s long-standing fascination with the East, unfolding a mosaic of perspectives, a glimpse into how the Middle East has been perceived, portrayed, and romanticised over time. Centred on the theme of femininity as envisioned through the Orientalist art movement – from candid representations of odalisques in the harem to depictions of maternal affection – the exhibition navigates the complex interplay of reality and fantasy which has historically defined Orientalist art.

It also reclaims the Orientalist narrative by juxtaposing Western portrayals by Rudolphe Ernst, Léon Comerre, Paul Leroy, Jan-Baptist Huysmascuns and Fabio Fabbi from the Freiha Collection with works by Arab modernists including Habib Srour, Moustafa Faroukh, Cesar Gemayel, Tawfik Tarek and early works by acclaimed Emirati artist Abdul Qader Al Rais, and 19th-century photography from the Orientalist art movement by Gabriel Lékégian, Jean Pascal Sébah, Tancrede Dumas and Hippolyte Arnoux among others. “This juxtaposition aims to catalyse a meaningful West-East dialogue surrounding the Orientalist movement, promote critical thinking about the existing narrative ascribed to the Orientalist art, and foster a deeper understanding of cultural exchange which transcends time and geography,” says Watrelot. “The photographs act as a visual bridge between the Orientalist fantasies captured in the paintings and the realities as viewed through the stylised lens of Western photographers.”

Press release from Bassam Freiha Art Foundation

Image: Fabio Fabbi. Women Resting on the Terrace. Undated. Oil on canvas. 90 x 150 cm. Bassam Freiha Collection. Image courtesy of Bassam Freiha Art Foundation