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The European expansion to Asia was driven by the desire for spices and Asian luxury products. Its results, however, exceeded the mere exchange of commodities and precious metals. The meeting of Asia and Europe signaled not only the beginnings of a global market but also a change in taste and lifestyle that influences our lives even today. Manifold kinds of cultural transfers evolved within a market framework that was not just confined to intercontinental and intra-Asiatic trade. In Europe and Asia markets for specific cultural products emerged and the transfers of objects affected domestic arts and craft production. Traditionally, relations between Europe and Asia have been studied in a hegemonic perspective, with Europe as the dominant political and economic centre. Even with respect to cultural exchange, the model of diffusion regarded Europe as the centre, and Asia the recipient, whereby Asian objects in Europe became exotica in the Kunst- und Wunderkammern. Conceptions of Europe and Asia as two monolithic regions emerged in this context. However, with the current process of globalization these constructions and the underlying models of cultural exchange have come under scrutiny. For this reason, the book focuses on cultural exchange between different European and Asian civilizations, whereby the reciprocal complexities of cultural transfers are at the centre of observation. By investigating art markets, workshops and collections in Europe and Asia the contributors exemplify the varieties of cultural exchange. The book examines the changing roles of Asian objects in European material culture and collections and puts a special emphasis on the reception of European visual arts in colonial settlements in Asia as well as in different Asian societies.
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Michael North is Professor of Modern History at Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universität, Greifswald, Germany.Review:
'The introduction makes one final ambitious claim: it aims to move beyond the hegemonic perspective of European dominance, and take seriously the 'reciprocal' aspects of artistic and cultural exchanges. With the exception of one or two, most of the studies succeed in this. That alone makes this a very worthwhile collection of articles.' English Historical Review 'The collection of essays as a whole is effective, both in indicating the main issues involved when writing histories of supposed cultural exchanges, and in warning the reader that one cannot apply a single theoretical model to objects belonging to different contexts.' European History Quarterly
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