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Tags for: Egyptomania: Fashion’s Conflicted Obsession
  • Special Exhibition
Cyra, c. 2000–2022. Yasmine Yeya (Egyptian, b. 1981). © Maison Yeya. Photo: Ziga Mihelcic

Cyra (Gown and Cape), “L’Ascension” Fall 2022 (detail), 2022. Maison Yeya (Emirati, est. 2006). Yasmine Yeya (Egyptian, b. 1981). Tulle, crepe, horsehair, metal. Image courtesy of Maison Yeya. © Maison Yeya. Photo: Ziga Mihelcic 

Egyptomania: Fashion’s Conflicted Obsession

Saturday, April 1, 2023–Sunday, January 28, 2024
Location: 234 Textile Gallery | Arlene M. and Arthur S. Holden Gallery

About The Exhibition

Egyptian art has long served, and continues to serve, as a primary inspiration for fashion designers, solidifying the legacy of Egyptomania—the influence of the art of ancient Egypt. This exhibition, on view in the CMA’s textile and Egyptian galleries, brings together around 50 objects that explore the influence of Egyptomania in fashion by juxtaposing contemporary fashion and jewelry loaned from around the world with fine and decorative artworks from the CMA collection. Egyptomania: Fashion’s Conflicted Obsession examines designers’ interpretations of themes, such as Egyptian dress, funerary process, and religion, that shape our contemporary perceptions of ancient Egyptian culture.

The complex history of European imperialism in Egypt, which dates back to the ages of the Greeks and Romans, has made Egyptomania in European and American art controversial. After a lull in diplomatic European interactions with Egypt from the Middle Ages to the 18th century, the 1798 invasion of the country by the French army, led by Napoleon Bonaparte, reinvigorated European and American interest in ancient Egyptian art and culture.

European archeological expeditions throughout the 19th and 20th centuries sent back massive amounts of Egyptian art to European and American museums, rousing a recurring interest in its forms in decorative arts, architecture, and fashion. After the 1922 discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb, fashion’s leading minds, from Paul Poiret to accessory enterprises like Cartier, fiercely embraced ancient Egyptian art as inspiration, making Egyptomania a staple design element. Since then, interest in ancient Egyptian culture has expanded rapidly across media, particularly platforms adjacent to the fashion industry. The exhibition also displays videos of runway shows that demonstrate fashion’s continued discourse with Egyptian art. 

Numerous questions raised by the intersection between Egyptomania and fashion in today’s social climate are also examined in the exhibition. Dialogues about cultural appropriation, ancient Egypt’s place in African history, and Black empowerment continue to bubble to the surface, critiquing fashion’s conflicted obsession with Egyptian art.


Art in 60 seconds: Egyptomania

Tags for: Art in 60 seconds: Egyptomania
  • Exhibition

Cartier and the Egyptomania Craze


Generous support of Egyptomania: Fashion’s Conflicted Obsession is provided by Maison Yeya. Additional support is provided by the Textile Art Alliance. 

All exhibitions at the Cleveland Museum of Art are underwritten by the CMA Fund for Exhibitions. Principal annual support is provided by Michael Frank and the late Pat Snyder and by the late Roy L. Williams. Major annual support is provided by the Womens Council of the Cleveland Museum of Art. Generous annual support is provided by an anonymous supporter, the late Dick Blum and Harriet Warm, Gary and Katy Brahler, Cynthia and Dale Brogan, Dr. Ben and Julia Brouhard, Brenda and Marshall Brown, Mr. and Mrs. Walter R. Chapman Jr., Richard and Dian Disantis, the Jeffery Wallace Ellis Trust in memory of Lloyd H. Ellis Jr., Leigh and Andy Fabens, Janice Hammond and Edward Hemmelgarn, Carl T. Jagatich, Cathy Lincoln, Eva and Rudolf Linnebach, William S. and Margaret F. Lipscomb, Bill and Joyce Litzler, Lu Anne and the late Carl Morrison, Tim O’Brien and Breck Platner, William J. and Katherine T. O’Neill, Henry Ott-Hansen, Michael and Cindy Resch, the Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation, and Margaret and Loyal Wilson.