In the present day the Arab world allows itself to be seen by the rest of the world via satellite, internet and the Twitter generation, yet it used to be described to Westerners by writers and artists that carried out long and gruelling journeys that sometimes took months or even years.
Traditionally France has always had a taste for exoticism, cultural diversity and a fascination for the culture of the Other, this foreign place - Oriental or Arab - that has for centuries cultivated the act of welcoming the traveller as an art de vivre in its own right, a refinement pushed to its paroxysm.
Our greatest writers dreamed of it, others threw themselves alone or with their families into the adventure of this Orient described by Châteaubriand, Flaubert or Lamartine.
The greatest artists were not mistaken about this - from Delacroix to Matisse, they were all fascinated by the colours of the souks and medinas, the elegance of the architecture of the mosques and shady gardens, heavenly, the dignity of the women draped in mysterious fabrics and the men whose bearing is set off by turbans of midnight blue or brilliant white.
Conceived as a wandering amidst the aesthetic issues of a territory as complex as it is multiple, the exhibition in turn addresses diverse aspects of this often fantasised Orient, weaving connections between artists of often faraway times and places, creating many trips back and forth between past and contemporary history.
Adel Abdessemed, Kader Attia, François Augiéras, Francis Bacon, Miquel Barceló, Yto Barrada, J.-J. Benjamin-Constant, Charles Betout, Étienne Billet, Jean-Charles Blais, Félix Bonfils, A. Bonnichon, Paul Bowles, Alexandre Cabanel, Auguste Chabaud, David Claerbout, Georges Clairin, Robert Combas, Géo Condé, Charles Cordier, Pascal Coste, Louis-Amable Coulet, Edward-Gordon Craig, André Réda Dadoun, Marie-Hélène Dasté, Tacita Dean, Édouard Debat-Ponsan, Émilie Deckers, Eugène Delacroix, Jules Didier, Jason Dodge, Isabelle Eberhardt, Emir El Qiz, Joseph Eysséric, Spencer Finch, Claire Fontaine, Théodore Frère, Eugène Fromentin, Paul Armand Gette, Nan Goldin, Douglas Gordon, Louis-Amable Grapelet, Zaha Hadid, Mona Hatoum, J.-A.-D. Ingres, Zilvinas Kempinas, Bouchra Khalili, Idris Khan, Anselm Kiefer, Jules Laurens, Le Corbusier, Henri Lehmann, Simon-Bernard Lenoir, Hamid Maghraoui, Henri Matisse, Théodore Monod, Moataz Nasr, Carlo Naya, Shirin Neshat, Jean Noro, Jean Nouvel, Yan Pei-Ming, Régis Perray, Pierre et Gilles, Isidore Pils, Walid Raad, Robert Rauschenberg, Michal Rovner, Charles Sandison, Moussa Sarr, Julian Schnabel, Pascal Sébah, Andres Serrano, Waël Shawky, Joseph Sintes, Djamel Tatah, Cy Twombly, Lawrence Weiner