In terms of the 2023 exhibition scene, “On the Roads of Samarkand: Wonders of Silk and Gold” is one that will be remembered. This exceptional event, presented at the Arab World Institute in Paris, is open to discovery until June 4, 2023. It’s an invitation to embark on a journey.

Have you always dreamed of making a stopover on the Silk Road? That’s precisely where the 2023 exhibition at the Arab World Institute (IMA), “On the Roads of Samarkand: Wonders of Silk and Gold,” takes us. Head to Uzbekistan to discover its ancestral textile and goldsmith practices, promoted by Emir Shah Murad in the 19th century. The exceptional exhibition provides a unique dive into the heart of Uzbek heritage and its treasures. It sheds light on the customs of this lesser-known region, despite being located at the confluence of many civilizations. A must-visit during your next escapade to Paris.

Bukhara and Court Embroidery                                                        2023 exhibition

In the 16th century, in what is now Uzbekistan, three khanates (kingdoms led by khans) were formed and vied for power: Bukhara, Khiva, and Kokand. Among them, the Khanate of Bukhara encompassed the cities of Bukhara and Samarkand. These two cities were particularly prosperous due to their production of cotton and silk. As essential stops on the Silk Road, they developed flourishing craftsmanship in textile art over the centuries. These ancestral skills experienced significant growth in the 19th century under the impetus of Emir Shah Murad. Unable to claim the title of khan and wanting to centralize his power, he founded the Emirate of Bukhara in 1785. To establish his authority, he came up with the idea of creating embroidery workshops in the city of Bukhara, making this technique an official art of the court. These masterpieces can be discovered in this 2023 exhibition, for which Yaffa Assouline (Editor and Artistic Director of Assouline Editions) serves as the general curator, assisted by Philippe Castro, Chief of Staff to Jack Lang.

2023 exhibition


Immerse yourself in a Land of Wonders  

In partnership with the Uzbekistan Art and Culture Foundation, the IMA unveils several hundred unique pieces to the international public for the first time. Originating from Uzbek craftsmanship in the 19th century, some of these items required months or even years of production. For example, for clothing, there are  chapans (a long, open coat), caps embroidered with gold and silver, and talismanic robes. There are also equestrian accessories for men, and precious jewelry for women. And we cannot  forget the intricately embroidered suzanis (large embroidered hangings) and luxurious carpets that adorn the stunning  interiors. The exhibition takes us through minimalistic staging and a fluid itinerary, through the lesser-known masterpieces of the Bukhara court. It also introduces us to the customs and traditions of the time. For example, jewelry served as indicators of a woman’s age and social and marital status. Suzanis, given at weddings and passed down from parents to children, were a token of a happy union. They are designed according to the aesthetic styles of two different schools. The Samarkand school is characterized by astral and hypnotic motifs, while the Bukhara school favors floral and plant compositions reminiscent of beautiful gardens. It is a journey that leads the visitor from surprise to surprise, in a continuous state of wonderment as they encounter these treasures of meticulous craftsmanship.

The Art of Chapan: Luxury Craftsmanship

The centerpiece of this 2023 exhibition is none other than the chapan, presented here in all its forms. This garment, worn like a coat by layering it as desired (up to 7 layers), was part of the men’s wardrobe until the early 20th century. The exceptional chapans presented at the IMA are handmade, mostly in silk velvet and sewn with gold and silver threads. They reveal compositions with colorful motifs, characteristic of different embroidery styles (darkham, buttador, daukhor). The height of refinement, they were once offered to distinguished guests as diplomatic gifts. These traditional outfits might remind us ofMoroccan caftans. We won’t reveal more; we prefer to let you discover these precious carpets, jewelry, accessories, and other unprecedented oriental paintings for yourselves.

On the Roads of Samarkand: Wonders of Silk and Gold”
Until June 4, 2023
At the Arab World Institute
1 Rue des Fossés Saint-Bernard, Paris

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