Western projections of the Middle East and North Africa in the arts have led to a great variety of artistic offerings that can be categorized under the common denominator of ‘Orientalism’. Orientalist art emerged during the Renaissance and continues today through new forms and techniques. Throughout the centuries, Orientalism was adopted by several Western cultures that documented their experiences of encounters with ‘other’ cultures. Orientalism has been absorbed by literature, visual arts, architecture, music, cinematography and philosophy.
It is a good idea to devote a museum to the Western art that reflected on the real or imagined Orient, and it is an excellent idea to create such a museum in the Gulf. Though part of the Middle East, Gulf culture has a less burdened and charged history, and, so to speak, recently made a fresh start. The plan of the Orientalist Museum is to assemble a representative collection of Orientalist art and to offer a unique insight into the history of Orientalist art and its underlying ideologies.
The museum states it wants to underline that all such art and thinking has an existence in its own right, and that proper research of the developments and connections can shed a new perspective on its context in the current world. In this light it, is notable that museum is named Orientalist and not Orientalism Museum.
There is already a collection of art objects, parts of which are on loan to international museums as well as being shown in incidental exhibitions in Doha. For instance, the Orientalist Museum’s set of Chagall’s Arabian Nights lithographs was shown in the Chagall exhibition at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid. In the Museum of Islamic Art, it organized a viewing of the film ‘The Desert of Forbidden Art’, on how a group of Soviet avant-garde artists continued in Uzbekistan during Stalin’s oppression and were influenced by the Islamic world.
For the Autumn of 2012, the Riwaq hosts an exhibition from the Orientalist Museum, ‘Art of Travel: Bartholomäus Schachman (1559-1614)’. Schachman was a Polish major who traveled throughout the Ottoman Empire during the 16th century. Watercolor miniatures painted during his travels take visitors on a journey through Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, highlighting the people, places and customs he encountered.
Dr Olga Nefedova is the collection’s director and chief curator of the Orientalist Museum. Lisa Malcolm is head of exhibitions and loans. Kholood Marzooq Al Fahad is a staff member.