The inferiority of women’s status in certain of yesterday’s and today’s societies, the liberation of the women, their dissimulation under various models of veils and clothes (abaya, burqa, chadri, haik, hijab, jilbeb, to khimar, niqab, chador), the destitution shown in the media : what are the realities and the situations which determined and still determine the relations between the society and the feminine body ?
Since millenniums and in most cultures, women hide certain parts of their body. Is it natural modesty which protects them, signs of respect or constraints imposed by a collectively recognized decency ?
More specifically, how do oriental women live today, towards and against certain prohibitions, beyond the sometimes-simplistic clichés Westerners make of their living conditions? How do they express themselves ? How do they see their world and ours; how do we see them ?
There are so many nuances in the game of the glimpse! The mirror, the Oriental amulets which protect from the evil eye, the eyes hidden behind dark glasses or under the netting of a chadri, made up with kohl, shy or provocative; the mystery of these multiple expressions have fascinated and inspired many artists.
The point here is to evoke modesty, whether it is forced or chosen, this « grace » tinged with fear and shame, politenesses and prohibitions, which dictates the behavior of women as soon as they grow up from childhood, whatever culture they come from.
Is is to these multiple aspects of the feminine body that the Boghossian Foundation wishes to give echo through this exhibition, by inviting about twenty artists of East and West to express themselves in the Villa Empain.
The Boghossian Foundation also sought the collaboration of the French writer Jean-Claude Bologne for the exhibition and for its catalog.
Author of the study Feminine Modesties, published by the Editions du Seuil in September 2010, Jean-Claude Bologne is a professor of medieval iconologie at ICART (Paris) and published about thirty books (novels, dictionaries and essays), among which History of The Love Feeling (Fayard, 2004), and A History of the Loving Conquest (Seuil, 2007).