Press Room Search

Current Press Releases
Archived Press Releases




News Home Current Press Releases

GETTY RESEARCH INSTITUTE PRESENTS "WALLS OF ALGIERS: NARRATIVES OF THE CITY"

Exhibition highlights GRI's extensive holdings on Algiers, the largest in North America

February 19, 2009

LOS ANGELES—The Getty Research Institute (GRI) presents “Walls of Algiers: Narratives of the City,” featuring selections from the GRI’s unique and extensive archive of historical materials on the Middle East and North Africa.

“Walls of Algiers: Narratives of the City,” on view at the Getty Center May 19-October 18, 2009, examines the city’s complex history through diverse 19th- and 20th-century photographs, postcards, illustrated books, and drawings.  Among North American institutions, the Research Library owns the most significant body of 19th-century photographs of Algeria (over 1,300 prints).

Legendary for its white walls cascading to the Mediterranean, the city of Algiers displays a history of turbulent colonial occupation.  From the French conquest in 1830 to its independence in 1962, Algiers served as an experimental site where intricate colonial strategies were rehearsed and tested. These policies changed the city, creating an urban duality that separated the “Arab” quarters (the Casbah) from the new French settlements.

Transformations to the urban fabric and architecture of Algiers reflected political shifts.  An early French intervention, for instance, included demolishing a section of Mosque al-Kebir dating from the late eleventh century.  To create a new facade, army engineers used an interior arcade from the eighteenth-century Mosque al-Sayyida, which had been torn down in the early 1830s to enlarge the city’s main square.  The resulting colonnade had a Parisian “rue de Rivoli” effect -- with an Islamic flavor.  The French also appropriated the homes of the Ottoman elite, who were forced to leave the city, and turned their mansions into military compounds, religious headquarters, museums, and libraries.

Along with compelling visual images, the exhibition features historical voices drawn from government and military reports, scholarly essays, travel accounts, novels, and poems.  These records are annotated by a range of critics, including architect Le Corbusier, philospher Jean-Paul Sartre, filmmaker Gillo Pontecorvo, psychoanalyst Frantz Fanon, and novelist Assia Djebar.  “The diverse voices broaden and complicate the story of Algiers, frequently from contradictory points of view,” says the GRI’s Frances Terpak, who curated the exhibition along with Zeynep Çelik, New Jersey Institute of Technology. 

The exhibition is composed of two thematic sections: Places examines the structure of the pre-colonial and colonial settlements, the interventions to the pre-colonial fabric, and the relationship between geographic conditions and settlement patterns.  Peoples presents the ethnic and religious communities of the city and the interactions between them.

A third section features a series of constructed images by American artist Dennis Adams that insert the figure of Patricia Franchini (Jean Seberg) from Jean Luc Godard’s classic film Breathless (1960) into stills from Gillo Pontecorvo’s epic The Battle of Algiers (1966).  Patricia, the young American selling the New York Herald Tribune, is “recast as an allegorical figure wandering the war-torn streets of Algiers, where she traces the fault line between the roles of messenger bearing the news and frontline witness to its making,” according to Adams.

“Adams’ work helps make the connection between historical Algiers and what’s going on today in the Middle East,” says Thomas Gaehtgens, director of the Getty Research Institute.  “The current conflicts grew out of the actions of the past, and you can trace their development in the words and images of colonial Algiers.”

The exhibition is accompanied by a publication: The Walls of Algiers: Narratives of the City through Text and Image, edited by Zeynep Çelik, Julia Clancy-Smith, and Frances Terpak. (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute/Seattle: Univ. of Washington Press, 2009).

A symposium, Walls of Algiers: Reconsidering the Colonial Archive, on May 28, 2009, situates the exhibition in a theoretical and historical context.  In addition to the curators, the speakers are Dennis Adams, Nadjib Berber, Julia Clancy-Smith, Jean-Louis Cohen, Nabila Oulebsir, and Mary Roberts.

# # #

MEDIA CONTACTS:  

Beth Brett    
Getty Communications    
310-440-6473
bbrett@getty.edu

Melissa Abraham
Getty Communications
(310) 440-6861
mabraham@getty.edu

About the Getty:

The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that features the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Getty Research Institute. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu.

Sign up for e-Getty at www.getty.edu/subscribe/ to receive free monthly highlights of events at the Getty Center and the Getty Villa via e-mail, or visit our event calendar for a complete calendar of public programs.

The Getty Research Institute is an operating program of the J. Paul Getty Trust. It serves education in the broadest sense by increasing knowledge and understanding about art and its history through advanced research. The Research Institute provides intellectual leadership through its research, exhibition, and publication programs and provides service to a wide range of scholars worldwide through residencies, fellowships, online resources, and a Research Library. The Research Library - housed in the 201,000-square-foot Research Institute building designed by Richard Meier - is one of the largest art and architecture libraries in the world. The general library collections (secondary sources) include almost 900,000 volumes of books, periodicals, and auction catalogues encompassing the history of Western art and related fields in the humanities. The Research Library's special collections include rare books, artists' journals, sketchbooks, architectural drawings and models, photographs, and archival materials.

Visiting the Getty Center: The Getty Center is open Tuesday through Friday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. It is closed Monday and major holidays. Admission to the Getty Center is always free. Parking is $15 per car, but free after 5pm on Saturdays and for evening events throughout the week. No reservation is required for parking or general admission. Reservations are required for event seating and groups of 15 or more. Please call 310-440-7300 (English or Spanish) for reservations and information. The TTY line for callers who are deaf or hearing impaired is 310-440-7305. The Getty Center is at 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles, California.