Press Release

BP British Art Displays 1500-2006: East-West

BP British Art Displays 1500-2006: East-West: Press related to past displays.

Tate Britain  Collection Display Rooms
1 September 2006 – 18 February 2007

 A new display of Islamic and British art that will shed light on the relationship between Britain and the Muslim world will be shown throughout the BP British Art Displays at Tate Britain from 1September 2006. East–West will take the form of an intervention where Islamic objects, chosen from public and private UK collections, will be placed alongside British paintings and sculpture from more than 500 years. Connections will be made between objects and historical moments, providing a fresh perspective on the presence of Islamic cultures in Britain and articulating the complex dialogue between east and west over the centuries. The East-West display coincides with the Festival of Muslim Cultures.

Dynamic and illuminating contrasts will be created when key historical works of British art such as Nicholas Hilliard’s famous portrait of Elizabeth 1 will be shown alongside a sixteenth-century letter introducing Ottoman agent Gabriel Defrens to the Elizabethan court. Such a pairing highlights both the importance of the Ottoman trade in the Middle East and the significance of diplomatic relations at the time.

The Arabian Nights had a profound and lasting influence on English imaginings of ‘the East’ in art and literature and initiated a new fascination with the perceived exoticism and fantasy of orient. The first edition of The Arabian Nights in English (1718) will be shown with eighteenth century masterpieces by Gainsborough, Reynolds and Hogarth. 

Joseph Nash’s lithograph The Indian Court at the Great Exhibition (1854) will be hung in the ‘Victorian Spectacle’ room to illustrate the assimilation of Muslim cultures in Victorian art at the height of the British Empire. Exquisite seventeenth-century Persian paintings such as A Lady Watching her dog drink wine from a bowl (Isfahan c.1640), the pose of which was derived from Raphael, will be shown alongside iconic Pre-Raphaelite works such as Millais’s Ophelia and Waterhouse’s Lady of Shallott.

Twentieth-century British artists such as Bomberg and Nash’s attempts to depict the modern world are displayed alongside a series of photographs showing the establishment of Muslim communities in Britain; photographs of the first English mosque (1889) and Muslim communities living and worshipping in Britain during the Second World War.  The more modern links between the two cultures are further enhanced in rooms such as the ‘Tachisme’ room in which the Taschist paintings of the 20th century, so called because of their use of spontaneous and gestural brushstrokes, are shown in conjunction with intricate 19th century works of Arabic Calligraphy.

TheEast-West display will offer an alternative context to Tate’s collection, illuminating the importance of Anglo-Muslim exchange and encounter throughout the 500 year period depicted by the current BP British Art Displays.

East-Westhas been selected by an advisory committee consisting of Professor Lisa Jardine and Dr Matthew Birchwood of Queen Mary, University of London and Dr Matthew Dimmock of the University of Sussex.

East-West is supported by BP as part of its sponsorship of the BP British Art Displays. BP has supported Collection Displays at Millbank since 1991, first at the Tate Gallery and then from the opening of Tate Britain in 2000 to the present. BP’s continued support allows Tate Britain to create a broad and dynamic displays programme which explores in depth British art from 1500 to the present.