I received the great honor to participate at a conversation : The Middle East: Cultural Hub of the 21st Century?  on 04/16/15 at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris

___________________________________________________________ With the participation of: Laure d’Hauteville, founder and director of BEIRUT ART FAIR & SINGAPORE ART FAIR,  ME.NA.SA (Middle East, North Africa, South& South East Asia).; Alexandre Kazerouni, Professor and Doctor at Sciences Po Paris ; Pascal Odille, C.N.E.S Expert (Chambre Nationale des Experts Spécialisés) , Artistic Director of BEIRUT ART FAIR & SINGAPORE ART FAIR (ME.NA) ; Majida Khattari, artist & Nikki Diana Marquardt, Gallery owner and founder of the NGO Work In Progress. Conversation animated by Christophe Rioux, writer, economist and editor at Quotidien de l’Art.

___________________________________________________________ IMG_4736IMG_4739 IMG_4740 IMG_4741 ___________________________________________________________ Excerpts from my intervention at the Institut du Monde Arabe 

Along with globalization, the world of art and its market has exploded.  Especially in the Middle East, where we found the ideal location with easy access and where oil and natural gas proliferated and created certain wealth. Some people call it a Disneyland for wealthy jet setters others see it as a great place to catch some “rays” 360 days a year. Others see it as an established and eminent location for investment and still others see it as a serious and unparalleled art center..

I love Dubai… its chic its romantic and its artificiality is highly convincing…and it is amazing. A strange mixture of all of the above and above all  it is also the hub where I change planes for Teheran, Kabul and Baghdad…. the zones!!! and before I delve into that bag of surprises I must give some background context to the Dubai story based on my own personal experience.

Historical Context

After 1978 and the fall of the Shah in Iran, the prosperous class of Iranians, quintessential business men, migrated to the small peaceful desert towns/city states called Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah . It was a strategic decision that allowed them to stay close to Tehran and allowed them to invest and work to build up this areas real estate and commerce.

In every real estate deal there was an Iranian…

These genial Iranians have created with their Emirati counterparts, a commercial empire: real estate, tourism and international airport hub.. Around 2000 the foundations of this enterprise are in place and then Dubai began to attract international business men and jet setters, and overnight  it was  a veritable “gold rush” …shiny new territory  surrounded by  a crystal clear sea and… 360 days of sunshine …a year… and Dubai was born.

Once this idyllic scenery was set up and all actors operative further questions of how such a paradise could be exploited began to challenge the leadership and their consultants…

Dubai took advantage of this favorable moment to create a key market for contemporary art with the input of two English men.   ART DUBAI is an international contemporary art fair, founded by Benedict Floyd and John Martin, two derivative traders in 2006. By putting their expertise in business and their address book to work , they made Dubai by 2007 a unique and unparalleled “hub”  of contemporary art. Today it is the largest contemporary art fair in the Arab world.

The creation of the Louvre Abu Dhabi and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi also confirms the ambition of this region’s leaders to create a unique cultural hub.

At the same time  we are also witnessing the development and enhancement of Islamic art in major Western institutions as the opening of a new department in the Louvre demonstrates.

Western galleries like mine show artists from these regions as much as Western artists, and at auction an Ahmed Mater (Saudi) is now sold for the same price as Anselm Kiefer (German).

Over the years, throughout the Gulf, there has been an explosion of the contemporary art market  and  collectors but has also created a  hotbed of young artists from Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraqi …. This was not the case 20 years ago

I take issue with those who accuse Dubai of being a simulacrum…. a sham and artificial man made(like who else???) pathetic excuses for a functioning metropolis…. it functions, it thrives, it booms and it carries us along on its  exciting course….. and I stated to someone yesterday  “if it is all a fake they sure are doing a good job of it’… or “fake it until you make it” ! and trust me just ask a young artist where he would like a expo and by and large he will tell you that Dubai is on the top of his wish list.

To use, even whisper, the word “emerging “emergence” or developing with regard to this remarkable city is simply a very ignorant and uninformed formulation. Dubai never emerged… it just appeared at first a mirage and now a reality!

Next week “My double Vision” Art and Conflict

Next week “My double Vision” Art and Conflict 

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