The exhibition “Parfums d’Orient” started at IMA (Institut du Monde Arabe) last September but I have to admit I forgot to go. When I heard an interview on the radio France Culture, of the wonderful “nose” of Givaudan, Christopher Sheldrake, I was mesmerized by the poetry of his speech. So I rushed to see the show and I really recommend it. The visitor navigates through images of Oman, Yémen, Egypt, Palestine, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Dubaï, Turkey, with a perfume in the galleries and you can smell anything you like by activating little buttons. It is a playful exhibition, which starts with pictures of rose picking by Denis Dailleux, in Morocco and also a voyage through Oriental customs. The smells of cooking are present in a film by Nafas Immi, “In the kitchen with Mama”.
Perfume starts with flowers and it is immediately refreshing to see photographs of roses in Morocco and in Djebel Akhdar in North West of Oman, at the entrance of the show. Denis Dailleux worked for florist Christian Tortu before becoming a photographer. He has published different books on Egypt and Ghana. Here he presents 4 photographs of the Moussem, a rose festival celebrating the harvest of the Damascus rose in Southern Morocco where the Drâa river runs.
Eman Ali is a photographer from Oman. She was trained at the Royal College of Arts and St Martin’s school London. The vivid colors of the pictures illuminate the first gallery. Another photographer, the Franco Lebanese Vladimir Antaki, shows 7 photographs of perfumers in Muscat’s souks, in Oman. They were commissioned for the exhibition. Located near the mosque, these shops specialize in perfume, a custom which dates from the 8 th century when the Arab world started creating perfume with roses. They will soon be shown in Riyad and you can acquire his book “The Guardians” which features a series of portraits of traditional shopkeepers around the world.
As we walk along the show, we discover a tower made of Aleppo soaps (Alepia), made of olive oil and bay laurel, now produced in France by a Syrian who fled the war in Syria. Photos of public baths (hammams) in Teheran, by photo reporter Peyman Hooshmandzadeh are very interesting and precede a section on perfumes and God with Egyptian steles showing the importance of perfume in their civilization.
The next section is devoted to perfume in the home and cooking smells. With a selection of brûle parfums, and midkhans designed by Aisha Alsowaidi in Doha, a fascinating carpet made of spices by Laurent Mareschal in France and an installation of clothes and necklaces in jasmine butts made Reem Al-Nasser in Jizan, Saudi Arabia.
The shows a great mix of antique sculptures and miniatures and contemporary installations. It concludes with a little fountain “Secrets of the boudoir” where you can extend your hand to get a drop of perfume with Arabic smells, conceived by Givaudan for the show. It is irresistible but not yet commercialized unfortunately. It stayed with me all day. You can also buy in the bookstore, a game to play with your children of perfumes in the Orient or attend one of the olfactotherapy seminars starting January 17.
IMA until March 17
I had to go to the Louvre to find an art book and was happily surprised by the quality of the bookstore as well as by the large number of very pretty presents in the gift shop including a series of Iranian plates and Oriental style Gien service with teapot and coffee cups.
Share this Post