"Turkish Tulips" at The Bowes Museum, Durham, United Kingdom.
On view July 29 through November 5, 2017.
Follow the trail of tulips through the Museum this summer for an enlightening insight into our relationship with Europe and the Middle East brought to you through the eyes of over 30 contemporary artists including Damien Hirst, Cornelia Parker, Gavin Turk, and Sir Peter Blake.
The familiar tulip becomes un-familiar, as its role in history chronicles a greater play. When the world stage gets confusing we need a simple tale to talk us through it. Thus does our floral court jester guide us through our past and helps us to understand how to navigate our future.
This is a story that needs to be told. It is a story about migration and about how much is owed to the East—a land steeped in culture, mathematics, science and philosophy. Now the war-torn lands from whence the refugees flee, as human addiction to the black gold of a carbon economy, sweeps the planet like wildfire.
This is also a romantic story set in 17th‑century Europe, a fable about social inequality and extravagance. As well it is an allegory of aesthetics and science—about beauty and obsession. It is a trademark of our decorative arts, of fertility, of fecund optimism, of spring and rebirth. It is an Islamic motif representing love and passion as well as sacrifice and the blood of martyrs, adopted by the Europeans as an emblem of sophistication, civilization, and learning.