There is a double attraction in visiting Institut du Monde arabe’s garden exhibition, « Jardins d’Orient, de l’Alhambra au Taj Mahal ». Since Jack Lang was named President a few years ago, it seems that this institution, created in 1987 by François Mitterrand, has taken on a new modernity. And what is happening in the arab world today, is drawing more and more visitors, who try to understand the culture and tradition of these (mostly) Mediterranean countries.
Devoted to desert countries and to Iranian, Moroccon and Indian gardens, the exhibition develops many attractive themes. Through drawings by 19 th century diplomat Pascal Coste, we discover the power of water in Arab gardens. And this will be the guiding principle of the show, where real fountains and basins are present all along.
Oasis with their palm trees are the first images we see. They can be traced back to 6 000 B.C. in Mesopotamia. Then come photographs of the main rivers and the fascinating watering system of shadow is shown, painted by different artists in the 19 th century including Eugène Fromentin and Louis Hippolyte Mouchot.
Persian gardens are definitely the most refined with King Cyprus’s garden in Pasagardes (4 gardens shaped in a square) in 600 bc. In Ispahan, the Harez palace, in Moghul India, the marble mausoleum of Taj Mahal, a collection of birds with bird songs in the room, Indian shawls and carpets with garden designs, all elements make us dream about this enchanted world.
The use of private gardens surrounded by walls, with their music and secret conversations or love encounters is well described hre. The geometry of plantations and irrigations, the political power of garden owners are also analyzed. Like in the “Thousand and one nights”, oriental gardens are a place for intimate love, contemplation, and true paradise on earth.
In front of IMA, a contemporary garden has been created as an anamorphosis ; not much has grown yet, so it is hard to understand, but it will live for five months and in the middle of the summer, Michel Péna and François Abélanet’s creation should make sense. One thing is sure, this exhibition is very political and will be very popular.
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