The exhibition juxtaposes Jean-Léon Gérôme (French, 1824-1904)’s iconic painting The Slave Market (1866), generously loaned by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, with four paintings by contemporary artist Lalla Essaydi (b. Morocco, 1956). Together, the works in this installation form a dialogue across space, time, and cultures.
All of the paintings in the exhibition depict classically rendered figures and evocative architectural settings. While the French picture invites voyeurism and stereotypes the so-called ‘Orient,’ Essaydi’s figures gaze right back at us and command respect, be they male, female, or hermaphrodite. Complementing the monumental photographs of women, for which she is already well known, these paintings challenge our assumptions of North Africa to foster cross-cultural awareness.