The lure of the Orient expressed in new exhibition

21 March 2013

A new exhibition of treasures from East Asian countries that have never been on display before opens on Saturday 23 March at Aberdeen Art Gallery, Schoolhill.

'Lure of the Orient' showcases a variety of objects collected by individuals who admired Oriental art. They include James Cromar Watt, the Misses Duguid and Miss Ann Reid who were local to Aberdeen. By choosing to leave their collections to Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums they contributed to the core of the Oriental collection, which numbers over 300 items.

In the 17th and 18th century trading links with the East had led to a thriving export market in Chinese silks, lacquer and porcelain. Collectors were able to acquire historical pieces as well as goods which were made in China exclusively for export primarily to Europe.

During the 19th century the British Empire expanded and the advent of Imperialism helped to instigate shows such as the Great Exhibition of 1851 and the London International Exhibition in 1862. These drew together exhibits and treasures from all over the world which helped to generate an interest in the exotic and unusual. Previously, only a privileged few had toured Europe or forayed into the Middle East; now all sections of society could see unusual and evocative artefacts from all over the world.

A country viewed as particularly mysterious and enticing was Japan, shrouded in secrecy for more than 200 years, as it closed itself off to the West. Once trade with the West was agreed in 1858, merchants took back examples of Japanese lacquer-ware, woodcuts, ceramics and ivory carvings. These were avidly snapped up by Westerners hungry for a glimpse of a country so long hidden from their eyes. This fascination with Japan culminated in an artistic movement referred to as 'Japonisme', used to describe the influence of Japanese aesthetics on the West.

Aberdeen Art Gallery curator of decorative art Vikki Duncan said: "The Lure of the Orient is an exciting new exhibition that showcases a myriad of rare objects from the Aberdeen Art Gallery Collections. Some of them have never been out on display before and have been brought together to give the visitor a visual feast of treasures."

The display includes historic objects are shown alongside examples of contemporary oriental craft and silver collected by Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums.

The exhibition runs until Saturday 01 March 2014.