The Phenomenon of “Foreign” in Oriental Art
In the context of this book, the term ‘foreign’ can be interpreted in such a way as to consider anything outside one’s perceived norm as unfamiliar and therefore strange or even odd. This attitude, however, can change as a result of greater familiarity with foreign culture and art so that the foreign trait might be considered as something exceptional to be admired and therefore desirable or even treasured.
The foreign phenomenon in ‘Oriental’ art can be understood in two ways: either as the approach of Europe towards the Muslim Middle East (including North Africa and Central Asia) and its art or, conversely, as the attitude and reaction of the Middle East towards the Western world and its art. This phenomenon pertains also to the approach of the Middle East to the Far East and its art, as well as the attitude of the Far East to Middle Eastern art. In the course of historical developments the attitude and approach of the parties change significantly and bring about different results.
All interest in the ‘other’ and ‘outsider’ artworks has for a long time taken place in spite of repeated hostilities, but trade for luxury goods and new ideas, as well as interest in profitable merchandising never entirely stopped the flow of exchanges. These exchanges were numerous and could also mean that the commercial drive and curiosity of mankind wins out over the hesitation to adopt features of foreign art and culture. The mystery and lure of the exotic and the magical attraction of the “foreign” element can take many forms. In the chapters of this book it will be shown that this fascination with foreign artistic features, themes, and goods can be deemed desirable and coveted, can be expressed in many different ways, and usher in new artistic concepts.