Inspired by the East, The British Museum - ★★★★ - Until January 26, 2020


Since the times of the crusades, the western world has been fascinated by its eastern counterpart, or at least by the western eye's version of those cultures. This exhibition shows how the Islamic world influenced western art particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries. Orientalism has become a rather politically charged term, but trying to understand how the Islamic world influenced western artists and how the west's image of the east informed both its art and by extension its politics is a fascinating and relevant endeavour. The challenge of a realistic engagement with 'the other' can only be addressed if we understand the conceptions and preconceptions we bring to the table. This exhibition presents the projection of the exotic and erotic onto the near eastern world through a wide variety of the arts, not just painting and drawing. Verdi's Aïda, Thomas Moore's Lalla Rookh or the interior of Sir Frederick Leighton's house are all wonderful examples of how the 'mystery' of the east has captured and informed the western imagination. The exhibition concludes with some powerful contemporary work by four Middle Eastern and African women artists. The works of Inci Eviner, Lalla Essaydi, Shirin Neshat and Raeda Saadeh are a fascinating coda to the exhibition as they thoughtfully recontexualise and subvert the works presented in the previous galleries.

Reviewed by J.C.

 Our Score:  ☆☆☆☆ 

WHEN, WHERE, GETTING THERE:
Until January 26, 2020
Sun - Thu: 10 am - 4 pm, Fri: 10 am - 7 pm
The British Museum
Nearest tube: Russell Square

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