The newly announced exhibition will be on display at the museum from the 10th October.

Algerian interior (detail) by Eugène Delacroix will be on show as part of the British Museum’s major new exhibition. Photograph: British Museum.

The British Museum aims to uncover how Western artists have been inspired by the Islamic world with its upcoming exhibition, created in collaboration with Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (IAMM) and is set to include a major loan of objects from the Kuala Lumpur-based institution.

Inspired by the East: How the Islamic world Influenced Western Art will explore the complexity of the relationship between Europe and North America in the west, and North Africa and the Middle East in the east. It will place at the centre of the exhibition the tradition known as Orientalism, the representation of the east in western arts and which often blurred the lines between fantasy and reality.

The display will uncover how Orientalism was not just restricted to painting as is often assumed, but also was a much wider influence across many types of visual and decorative arts. During the exhibition, visitors will be able to see objects as diverse as ceramics, photography, glass, jewellery, manuscripts and clothing, as well as contemporary art.Today, Orientalism is a highly charged and contested term, and while Orientalist arts and crafts rapidly declined in popularity from the 1940s, its visual language has remained a potent resource for some artists today. 

Some of the highlights of the exhibition will include: paintings by leading Orientalists including Eugène Delacroix, John Frederick Lewis and Frederick Arthur Bridgman, as well as significant pieces, such as British artist Edmund Dulac’s original illustrations for a 1907 edition of the Arabian Nights, and ceramics by Théodore Deck, a leading French ceramicist who in the late nineteenth century created a range of pieces directly inspired by Islamic originals.

Talking about the exhibition, Hartwig Fischer, Director of the British Museum, said: “This major exhibition will highlight just how extensive and enduring the cultural exchange between the west and the Islamic world has been. It is an artistic relationship which has endured for five centuries and has influenced an astonishing diversity of material culture. We are grateful to the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia for collaborating with us on this project and for offering such a generous loan of objects.”

Inspired by the East: How the Islamic World Influenced Western Art will be on display at the British Museum from the 10th October until the 26th January 2020.


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