Is Islamic Art a Western invention? I open with this article a series of articles I’ve published this year on the invention of Islamic Art. It comes in line with the reopening of departments of Islamic Art a the Metropolitan  in November 2011 and at the Louvre expected in 2012. It leads to a reflection on the Orientalist tradition and the political meaning of exhibiting Islamic Art.

Poster & Matiss

Poster of "Meisterwerke muhammedanischer Kunst" exhibition, Munich, 1910, photo:DR. // Matisse and friends at the Oktoberfest, Munich 1910, DR.

Are contemporary exhibitions/museums of Islamic Art embedded in a century old Orientalist tradition?
Here’s a book review – published on Studia Islamica, 2011, 2 – of Avinoam Shalem & Andrea Lermer’s After One Hundred Years that celebrated the 100 years of the exhibition ‘Meisterwerk muhammedanischer Kunst’held in Munich in 1910. The aim of the organisers the Munich 1910 exhibition was to break up with Orientalism by linking Oriental Art to Modernism. The exhibition entered history that way with Matisse among other avant-garde artists visiting it. This book examines the heritage of this amazing exhibition considered as a major landmark in Islamic Art studies. This book review offers a chance to reflect on the history of exhibitions as a research topic. It also raises questions on the contemporary exhibitions of Islamic Art in the public space and their political discontent. Is exhibiting Islamic Art political? As more museums are being opened, the orientalist tradition raises under the cover of a so-called  Islamophilia supposed the counter post 9/11 islamophobia.

After one hundred years: the 1910 exhibition ‘Meisterwerk muhammedanischer Kunst’ reconsidered’, Andrea Lermer and Avinoam Shalem, Leyde, Brill, 2010, 401 p. Read the rest of this entry »

Statue de Bourdelle au Musée des Beaux-Arts d'Alger, DR.

For the 15 years now, demands of return, repatriation and restitution of artefacts stolen during the colonial period have been an endless diplomatic issue between former colonised and colonisers in Africa. How objects of cultural heritage became subjects of conflict?

Not all Africans countries claim for their ‘looted’ heritage, North African countries (Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco) barely asked for cultural artefacts to be repatriated. This article explains that difference through the analysis of 50 years of cultural policies in a post-colonial context. It raises questions that help reformulating the dead-end of the question of restitutions. How that difference enlights the relationship between the part (the object in exile) and the all (the heritage in situ)?
This complete article (in French) is now  on line on revues.org:

Jean-Gabriel Leturcq, « La question des restitutions d’œuvres d’art : différentiels maghrébins », L’Année du Maghreb [En ligne], IV | 2008, http://anneemaghreb.revues.org/431

Enjoy your reading*.

*I’m aware it is a very academic article. Research aims at fuelling cultural policies with new matters, doesn’t it!?

My article  on Sudanese museums and  politics of identity in the transitional period 2005-2011 published in Egypte-Monde Arabe 5-6 (2009) on Heritage-Politics in Egypt and Sudan is now available on line on revues.org along with the rest of the book.

This article is part of the chapter 3: Politicisation and instrumentalization of Heritage in Sudan. This topic was investigated for the first time. The chapter comprises resourceful contributions of Iris Seri-Hersh (Iremam, Aix-en-Provence) on the recurrent use of the narratives of the Mahdiya in Sudanese politics, Ida Dykorn Heierland (Bergen University) on the political and economic use of archeological heritage in Naqa, Coralie Gradel (SFDAS, Khartoum) on the involvement of Lille III University in Sudanese archaeological research since the 1950’s and Constanza de Simone (UNESCO, Cairo) on the projected museum in Wadi Halfa.

Existing and planned museums in Sudan. ©Jean-Gabriel Leturcq, 2009

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News and updates

April 5, 2011

Until #Feb17 events in Libya, I was in charge of a team whose responsibility was the creation of a centre for digital conservation of Libyan historical archives in Tripoli. Of course, our activities stopped and I’m back in France.
I’ve found a shelter near Lille and settled in front of the computer.

What’s on the shelf now?

I’m looking for a job in Heritage management and/or research. I’m applying widely to positions in Middle East, North Africa and Europe. Read the rest of this entry »

On the 7th of October 2009, the French Culture minister  announced the Musée du Louvre would return to the Egyptian authorities five  fresco fragments   supposedly stolen from a tomb in the Kings’ Valley (Louxor). Why did it break the news?

Egyptian officials and the returned hair of Ramses IIThe issue is not really new. Since the early 2000’s, the problem of cultural property have gained visibility and  became a  source of diplomatic and political conflict. Two opposite positions are confronting. On one hand, institutions in archaeological-source countries claim for the right to be returned, rapatriated or restituted “their” “looted” artifacts as part of the national heritage. On the other hand, 18 museums from antiquities-importing countries have signed the Declaration of the importance and Value of Universal Museums (2002) stating the artifacts in their collections do not belong to a  nation in particular but to the entire Humanity. As both arguments can be considered as valid, it results  in a deadlock situation such as in the case of the Parthenon/Elgin Marble whose property is claimed at the same time by Greek authorities and the British Museum.

The new thing about this recent return is that the Louvre is one of the museums that signed the 2002 Declaration. For the first time, one of those museums agrees in such a short time (less than two weeks) to return the claimed pieces… without negociating any condition. How was it possible?

Read the rest of this entry »

Above is the presentation related with the article beneath:

« La question des restitutions d’œuvres d’art : différentiels maghrébins », L’Année du Maghreb, Paris, CNRS édition, 2008, p. 79-97 (Dossier « La fabrique de la mémoire : variations maghrébines », dir. Jean-Philippe Bras).

Here is the introduction:

« Eh quoi ? Les indiens massacrés, le monde musulman vidé de lui-même, le monde chinois pendant un bon siècle, souillé et dénaturé, le monde nègre disqualifié, d’immenses voix à jamais éteintes, des foyers dispersés au vent, tout ce bousillage, tout ce gaspillage, l’Humanité réduite au monologue, et vous croyez que tout cela ne se paie pas ? » Aimé Césaire, Discours sur le colonialisme, 1950

Depuis une quinzaine d’années, les demandes de restitutions d’objets pillés par les puissances coloniales ne cessent d’augmenter en nombre comme en médiatisation. Parallèlement, la question des réparations de la dette morale et physique du colonialisme s’est engagée entre anciens colonisés et colonisateurs. Le débat sur les restitutions et les réparations conditionne les rapports Nord-Sud ; comme si, pour faire mentir Aimé Césaire, l’Humanité n’était pas réduite au monologue et que le bousillage devait être payé. La restitution d’oeuvres d’art sert-elle la réparation d’un passé bafoué ? Comment des objets de patrimoine sont-ils devenus des objets de conflits ? Read the rest of this entry »

Here is a polemic research article I wrote in 2007 about Dr. Zahi Hawass published in Enrique Klaus et Shaymaa Hassabo (ed.) Chroniques Égyptiennes 2006, Cairo, CEDEJ, 2007. new! (september 2009) download the article here or buy the book here

Et Zahi créa l’Égypte: Quand glamour et patrimoine défraient la chronique

Cet article analyse le discours et les polémiques publiés dans la presse égyptienne autour de la personnalité de Zâhî Hawwâs, le secrétaire général du Conseil suprême des antiquités (CSA) en 2006. L’homme a bâti son pouvoir sur le patrimoine égyptien, utilisant sa position institutionnelle ainsi que l’image de prestige qu’il a projetée dans les médias étrangers.

L’article rend compte de son emprise sur le patrimoine égyptien qui englobe les champs culturel, économique et politique. Néanmoins, sa présence dans la liste des 100 personnalités les plus influentes dans le monde dressée par « Time Magazine » ainsi que sa reconduction à la tête du CSA n’ont pas empêché les critiques en Égypte concernant sa stratégie de communication, orientée vers les médias.

Cet article décrit ainsi un jeu de miroir reflétant les ambiguïtés de la politique locale et le prestige international de Égypte en termes de patrimoine, d’identité, de pouvoir, de connaissance, de sciences mais aussi de business. En tant que personnification de l’archéologie égyptienne, Zahi Hawass incarne toutes ces ambiguïtés.


“And Zahi created Egypt”, When Glamour and Heritage Break the News

Abstract

The aim of this article is to analyse the discourse and the polemics in the Egyptian newspapers that surrounded Zahi Hawass, the Supreme Council of Antiquities General Secretary in 2006. By his institutional position and by the prestigious image of himself  he projected in the international media, he built up his power over the Egyptian heritage.

The article gives an account of his seizure over that heritage, which encompasses realms of culture, economics and politics. Yet, his nomination in Time Magazine’s list of the top 100 most influential personalities worldwide and his reappointment at the head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities did not prevent national criticism towards his media-oriented policies.

This article describes a game of mirrors reflecting the ambiguities of local politics and international prestige of Egypt in terms of heritage and identity, power and knowledge, science and business. As the personification of Egyptian archaeology, Zahi Hawass epitomises all those ambiguities…