Lalla Essaydi (Moroccan, b. 1956)
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Lalla Essaydi (Moroccan, b. 1956)

Harem Revisited #33

Details
Lalla Essaydi (Moroccan, b. 1956)
Harem Revisited #33
signed, titled, dated and numbered ‘LE.HAREMREV33.7188.1’ (on a label attached to the reverse)
chromogenic print mounted on aluminum
71 x 88in. (180.3 x 223.5cm.)
Executed in 2012, this work is number five from an edition of five
Provenance
Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York.
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner.
Literature
D. Nasser-Khadivi (ed.), Lalla Essaydi: Beyond Time and Beauty, Baku 2013 (illustrated in colour on the cover and p. 97).
L. Essaydi; Lalla Essaydi: Crossing Boundaries, Bridging Cultures (ACR Edition), Paris 2016 (illustrated in colour, on the cover and on 253-255).
Exhibited
New York, Edwynn Houk Gallery, Lalla Essaydi: New Works, 2013.
San Francisco, Jenkins Johnson Gallery, Lalla Essaydi: New Beauty, 2014 (another from the edition exhibited).
Marrakech, Galerie Tindouf, Lalla Essaydi: POÉSIE LUMIÈRE, 2014 (another from the edition exhibited and illustrated in colour, p. 53).
London, Kashya Hildebrand, Lalla Essaydi: The Dangerous Frontier, 2015 (another from the edition exhibited).
Special notice

These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale using a Temporary Import regime. Import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price. VAT is also payable (at 20%) on the buyer’s Premium on a VAT inclusive basis. When a buyer of such a lot has registered an EU address but wishes to export the lot or complete the import into another EU country, he must advise Christie's immediately after the auction.

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Lot Essay

Moroccan artist Lalla Essaydi draws us to reconsider Arab female identity when seen across Orientalist imagery. Through a unique perspective, she returns to her Moroccan roots as a woman caught somewhere between her past and present, opening up a larger discussion into time and space as she documents them both metaphorically and physically. Essaydi continues her exploration of representing the female body in an address to the intricacies of being a female in the Arab world. A departure and continuation of her Converging Territories (2003-2004) and Les Femmes du Maroc (2005-2008) her Harem Revisited works are the most visually stunning in both symbolism and aesthetics, expanding her exploration into the harem as an architectural and social structure of confinement.

Continuing to explore the themes and qualities of her previous works, Essaydi in her Revisited series places them in a new context – Dar Al Basha, an architecturally animated Moroccan palace. In the Harem Revisited series, she has carefully sourced antique 19th century Moroccan costumes and props from a private collection that have been exhibited at the Kennedy Centre in New York and the Berber Museum at the Majorelle Garden. She re-contextualises these patterns into both furniture and clothing and the artificiality of these new patterns therefore disrupts the assumed authenticity of Essaydi's harems. By doing so, Essaydi highlights the fabricated nature of the Orientalised identity, where, unlike the artist's strict use of only Moroccan costumes and props, the Orientalists actually combined several patterns of fabrics and different props from many different Middle Eastern countries and merged them to recreate an artificial 'Arab' fantasy.

By applying calligraphy to the women’s bodies, she is committing to a sacred Islamic art that is usually unapproachable to women. To apply this writing in henna, an embellishment worn and applied only by women, adds a contradiction to this already risqué paradox. This way, Essaydi allows the henna and calligraphy to be seen as both a veil and as an expressive statement.
On a mission to record the physical spaces of her childhood and see how they impacted the growth of the metaphorical spaces, Essaydi journeyed back to Morocco to photograph these most coveted places before they were lost. Although the photographs she has taken can be considered autobiographical in a sense, Essaydi states that ‘they can also be taken as reflections on the life of Arab women in general.’ (Lalla Essaydi’s artist statement). She documents her own experiences growing up as an Arab woman and looking at those experiences vis à vis the West. Using the photographs to better understand the importance of architectural spaces in Islamic culture, she is restraining the women within the space and also “confining them to their “proper” place, a place bounded by walls and controlled by men.” (Artist Statement)

Since Essaydi spent most of her life abroad, returning to her Moroccan roots did not seem like an easy task. She is now an Eastern woman looking through at her past via a Westernized perspective. However, since she grew up taking part in both cultures, she is attempting to confirm their representation in today's society and to provoke the Westerners' traditional depiction of women in a harem. As such, her pieces often adopt Orientalist imagery from Western painting traditions, such as the pose of the woman, which is directly inspired by a pose particular to 19th-century paintings, thereby inviting viewers to reassess the Orientalist mythology.

"In my art, I wish to present myself through multiple lenses -- as artist, as Moroccan, as traditionalist, as Liberal, as Muslim. In short, I invite viewers to resist stereotypes." (Artist Statement)

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