SUITE EGYPTIENNE: Fouad Elkoury
The Third Line is pleased to present Fouad Elkoury’s fourth solo exhibition in Dubai Suite Egyptienne, an account of the artist’s photographic travels through Egypt starting in the late 80’s. Using Gustave Flaubert and Maxime Du Camp as guides, Fouad followed their footsteps along the Nile valley nearly 150 years later. The gallery will exhibit the complete series of Suite Egyptienne, including photographs that have never been shown before.
In 1849, Gustave Flaubert and his friend Maxime du Camp embarked on a journey through Egypt commissioned by the French Ministry of Agriculture and Commerceand the Académie des Instructions in Paris respectively. Emblem of the East to the French Bourgeoisie, both were asked to report on ‘the Orient’ which subsequently became central to Flaubert’s writings.
A symbol of Flaubert’s romance with the East was his encounter with Kuchuk Hanem, the famed courtesan from Esna which unexpectedly imposed poetry and romance on the writer’s study of Egypt. Considered by Fouad Elkoury the subject of some of Flaubert’s most beautiful pages, she returns in his Suite Egyptienne. Whilst in pursuit of Flaubert and Du Camp’s voyage, accompanied by his then wife, Nada, a subconscious overlap of narratives was created. Kuchuk Hanem, 1990, picturing Nada on a sofa playfully hiding her face behind a fan, is Fouad’s reading of Flaubert’s encounter. Nada became the protagonist in Fouad’s depiction of Egypt, transforming the 150-year-old Orientalist narrative into a personal fiction.
Fouad’s work evokes a sense of nostalgia for the era of Flaubert’s romanticism, while also making us reminisce the Egypt of 1989. Suite Egyptienne is an intimate series of photos, a sequence of over 80 images taken a quarter century ago, showing the ephemeral and layered qualities of history.