Thursday, March 21, 2013

Dahesh Museum Forms Innovative Partnership with Christie’s to Open Orientalist Exhibition at Rockefeller Center

Tangerian Beauty by José Tapiró y Baró

Regular Jade Sphinx readers know of my devotion to the Dahesh Museum – once an oasis of representational and Orientalist art in the heart of Midtown Manhattan.  Since closing their doors, the museum’s stunning collection of works have been on view in various locations around the world.  This year, the Dahesh has opened a gift shop in Hudson Square, hopefully the first step in reopening the museum and making its treasure regularly available once again.

The Dahesh continues its spirit of innovation with an exhibition of 30 major Orientalist masterworks open to the public at Christie’s, at 20 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, from March 27 to April 15.  The exhibition celebrates the 19th Century rediscovery of the East by Western artists, and offers a fresh approach to Orientalism as a complex, cross-cultural encounter.

The show, Encountering the Orient: Masterworks from the Dahesh Museum of Art, will be the first time the museum is partnering with an auction house to present an exhibition.  Encountering the Orient explores how artists from both Europe and America interpreted the culture and people of the Middle East and North Africa during the 19th century.  To the 19th Century mind, the East was anything East of Istanbul, and during that time, Western encounters flourished following the industrial revolution, increased political interest, and the emergence of easier world travel.  Drawn by the exotic, romantic artists wanted to escape the urban rigors back home, realists sought to record the “real” Orient, and others looked for unusual subject matter to satisfy the new demands of a changing art market.  Yet some who did not make the journey rendered an “imaginary” Orient inspired by both Arabic texts -- such as One Thousand and One Nights --and many popular Western literary and travel accounts. After 1839, photographers provided plentiful documentation.

Drawn from the Dahesh Museum of Art’s collection, the exhibition features 30 paintings, sculptures, and illustrated books by such celebrated artists, such as Rudolf Ernst, Ludwig Deutsch, Gustav Bauernfeind and Frederick Arthur Bridgman, as well as evocative works by less familiar names, such as José Tapiró y Baró.  It addresses a broad variety of themes, ranging from Western fascination with ancient Egypt, Islamic architecture and design, ethnography, and biblical history to the exotic genre and harem scenes, and provides a fuller understanding of Orientalism and the artists who practiced it. 

Encountering the Orient: Masterworks from the Dahesh Museum of Art will be on view at Christie’s, Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday 1 to 5 pm.  For more information and a schedule of gallery talks and related programs, visit or

Expect a more in-depth review once the show has opened.

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