For the first time in its 130-year history, the legendary Orient Express is to be the subject of a major exhibition blending high and popular culture, to be held from 4 April. “The train retraces our history, not just the story of beauty, luxury and sensuality told by this event”, explained Jack Lang, President of the Institut du Monde Arabe (IMA – Arab World Institute), before adding “it’s not just about showcasing a locomotive and its carriages but also taking an interest in its impact on our history, geography and on the imagination.”
Thus, the “Orient Express, Once Upon a Time” exhibition will not just feature souvenirs related to the train itself but also videos, film extracts and paintings such as those of Fernand Léger, corresponding to the periods and places through which this historic transcontinental train has travelled.
The first and most spectacular step will be to install the rebuilt locomotive and four Orient Express carriages – all classified as historical monuments – on the IMA forecourt, all accompanied by excerpts from well-known films. Inside, in an area covering over 800 square metres, visitors will be invited to step into an interactive set built around giant travel trunks and discover the incredible genius responsible for this technological and human adventure, Georges Nagelmackers.
While display cabinets evoke the fine art of living on board, they will also trace the stops along the route travelled by the Orient Express such as Venice, Istanbul, Baghdad and Cairo. Documents and works of art placed opposite each other will allow visitors to better understand the development of geopolitical relations between Europe and the Near-East. The West’s desire for the East, the overarching theme of this exhibition, is thus ably expressed. Throughout the exhibition, visitors to the IMA will be able to attend meetings, screenings and talks to learn about all the multicultural aspects surrounding the legend of the Orient Express.
“The Orient Express, Once Upon a Time” exhibition held at the Arab World Institute, from 4 April to 31 August 2014