Skip to content

Mirror Or Mirage? Art Exhibition Opens At Islamic Arts Museum, Explore Over 100 Oriental Paintings Till 15th Oct

Mirror Or Mirage? exhibition at IAMM

Art exhibitions are a sanctuary to explore intricate artworks, each telling a unique story and transporting us deeper into the world of history and aesthetic wonder.

Currently gracing the walls of the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (IAMM) in Kuala Lumpur are artworks part of the Mirror Or Mirage? art exhibition. From now until 15th October 2023, art lovers can discover over 100 Orientalist paintings – including rarely-seen pieces by artists from around the world.

One of the largest art exhibitions depicting the Orient

"Mirror or Mirage?" exhibition IAMM - paintingImage credit: @abbyariffin via Instagram

The Mirror Or Mirage? is one of the largest art exhibitions of Islamic paintings at the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia to date. Capturing the essence of the Orient in the 19th and early 20th centuries, these rarely seen artworks from celebrated artists such as Eugene Delacroix and John Frederick Lewis will be on display until 15th October.

"Mirror or Mirage?" exhibition IAMM - exhibition space
Image credit: @ulysses_mmx via Instagram

Curated by London-based Lucien de Guise and KL-based Rekha Varma, this extensive exhibition offers visitors an exploration of the Islamic world and the opportunity to contemplate the rich tapestry of humanity across time and space.

"Mirror or Mirage?" exhibition IAMM - paintings
Image credit: Yusintha

Highlighting the latest chapter of a long story called Mirror or Mirage?, this exhibition has its gallery walls graced with gorgeous artworks and artefacts depicting the relationship between Europe, America, and what used to be called the “Orient”.

"Mirror or Mirage?" exhibition IAMM - artefacts
Image adapted from: @shanbilly via Instagram

Visitors can explore the rich tapestry of East-meets-West artistry by some of the most celebrated painters of the late 1800s-early 1900s from around the world, such as Jean-Léon Gérôme, Eugene Delacroix, and John Frederick Lewi.

"Mirror or Mirage?" exhibition IAMM - paintings from India
Image credit: Yusintha

Over 100 paintings and artefacts

With over 100 paintings and artefacts displayed in this art exhibition, this might just be your one chance to see all of them in one place.

We narrowed down some must-see artworks at the exhibition:

1. “Young Woman Reading” by Osman Hamdi Bey

"Mirror or Mirage?" exhibition IAMM - painting
Image credit: Yusintha

One unmissable highlight is Osman Hamdi Bey’s rarely-seen “Young Woman Reading”, which captures a young woman reading a Qur’an. The use of an embroidered cloth to protect the book, the identifiable pattern of a prayer rug, and the smoking incense burner all speak of piety. 

This painting was sold in an auction for £6.3 million (~RM36,541,913) in London in 2019, and is currently in the collection of the Islamic Arts Museum.

Fun fact: Bey was the only Orientalist painter to come from the Orient. As such, his paintings are viewed as being the most credible depictions among all the painters of the era.

2. “The Hour of Prayer, Tangier” by Georges Bretegnier

"Mirror or Mirage?" exhibition IAMM - painting
Image credit: Yusintha

“The Hour of Prayer, Tangier” by Georges Bretegnier is another mesmerising masterwork at the exhibit, showcasing a spiritual portrayal of congregants praying and following the Imam as he leads the ritual with serenity. His green robe, combined with the links to the Prophetic tradition, add to a sense of calm, amounting a beautiful masterpiece not to be missed during your visit here.

3. “Rider and His Steed in the Desert” by Jean-Léon Gérôme

"Mirror or Mirage?" exhibition IAMM - painting
Image credit: Yusintha

The heart-wrenching “Rider and His Steed in the Desert” is a rare sentimental work by Jean-Léon Gérôme. With the dying horse, this artwork resembles the artist going beyond his comfort zone and creating a visual poem about the relationship between man, horse, and the harshness of the natural world.

4. “An Eastern Meal” by Rudolphe Ernst

"Mirror or Mirage?" exhibition IAMM - painting
Image credit: Yusintha

Another rare piece is “An Eastern Meal” by Rudolphe Ernst, which depicts figures huddled around a table for a meal in a spacious interior with a mihrab, or prayer niche, in the background.

Other not-to-be-missed paintings include “A Visit: a Harem Interior” by Henriette Brown, “Rabat (The red gate)” by Edwin Lord Weeks, and “A Carpet Seller, Cairo” by Charles Roberson – all of which meticulously tell an enchanting story of the Orient from a time long gone.

Mirror Or Mirage? exhibition at IAMM opens till 15th October

Whether you’re a seasoned art connoisseur or someone eager to explore the world of paintings for the first time, visiting an exhibition like this one promises a captivating experience that enriches the mind and your knowledge about the world at large.

If you’ve been thinking of visiting an art exhibition in KL, consider a visit to the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia for its Mirror Or Mirage? exhibition to immerse yourself in the rich and evocative world of Orientalist painting. For more details, visit IAMM’s website

Admission: RM20/pax for Malaysians | RM30/pax for standard admission
Venue: Islamic Arts Museum, Jalan Lembah, Tasik Perdana, 50480 Kuala Lumpur
Date: Now till 15th October 2023
Time: 9am-6pm

Art lovers will also want to check out this Hallyu Wave exhibition at the National Art Gallery or the Straits & Oriental Museum in Penang with its collection of over 250 ceramics.

Cover image adapted from: @abbyariffin via Instagram, Yusintha