Emirates art lovers welcome Orientalism

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In fact the 85 oil paintings, sketches and water colours that make up the Lure of the East exhibition, have elicited little else apart from curiosity and delight in the Emirate of Sharjah.

The works, first displayed at Tate Britain, have travelled via Turkey to the Gulf following a roughly similar route to that taken by many British artists who made their way to the Orient in the 19th century.

These early adventurers brought back images that stirred the European imagination showing scenes of a very different way of life; one that lured many of the artists to stay on for prolonged periods.

According to Manal Ataya, the director general of Sharjah Museums Department, the exhibition will bridge cultural gaps.

"We know that these paintings can be viewed as controversial," she explains.

"But we see them in a positive light. It is fascinating to see places in the Muslim world that now no longer exist. We are lucky to have such accurate records of the architecture of the time. In many cases they are the only records we have."

Hung in a series of rooms on the ground floor of the Sharjah Art Museum, the works reflect the West's fascination with life in the East in the last two centuries.

They include portraits of TE Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) and Lord Byron, both in Arab dress, bustling souqs, people and livestock...

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