Friday, 16 March 2007

The art of deception

I had considered this off-topic, but decided to post after receiving a handful of emails on the subject. Most of us are guilty of criticising Dubai at every opportunity, but many members of the media community have come out in protest over The Observer's report on the Gulf Art Fair, branding it ill-researched, factually incorrect, and verging on racist.

Among the cariactures and cliches was the description of UAE nationals as resembling "a laundry load of linen drying in a stiff breeze". Factual inaccuracies include: the "Arabic" American flag painting was actually in Farsi, and Dr Omar did not ask the value of the "Nation of Islam" piece, just pointed to it as it said "Allah" in Arabic. Oh, and Dubai has plenty of bookshops for the record. Letters can be submitted to reader@observer.co.uk.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've been in Dubai for three years and in my opinion this article in the Observer was almost spot on - well written, entertaining and impressively astute for somebody who does not live here. Let's face it; Dubai, and its attempts to purchase culture in bulk, along with its ridiculously tacky architecture (the art fair was held at the hideous Madinat Jumeirah), is laughable to many people with good taste. Yes, Emiratis are clueless about art, the hotel's a fortified sandcastle for the nouveux-riche, the advertising ('history rising' etc etc) is arrogant and preposterous, and the Creek is the only interesting -and genuinely beautiful - place in town. There's nothing racist about the article. It's somebody's opinion and it's one I agree with. It's one of the best articles about Dubai I've ever seen.

James Phelan said...

Listen mate, why don't you just fck off back home if you don't like it. Your a pompous c#nt and I am going to track you down

Anonymous said...

James,
There's no need to be abusive and aggressive. I was just voicing an opinion, which is that I agree with the vast majority of what was in the article. Isn't that the point of a comments field on a blog, so that opinions can be debated? Anyway, I didn't say I didn't like living here - I just agreed with the writer's opinions on Dubai.

Calling me a c*** and threatening to track me down over a comment on a blog is just silly.

Dubai Media Observer said...

Everybody calm down. For the record, I do agree with the article's view on the lack of appreciation of culture/art by the Emaratis and Arabs in general. Don't look at me, some Arab columnists in Al Ittihad think so too.

Arabs generally don't have the same kind of culture that involves appreciating art as the Europeans do. This is not necessarily a good or bad thing. It just is.

secretdubai said...

Arabs generally don't have the same kind of culture that involves appreciating art as the Europeans do. This is not necessarily a good or bad thing. It just is.

And when one considers prohibitions on depiction of the human form in Islam, and so forth, it is not surprising that tastes are different. Different cultures have been exposed to different art forms for millennia. No wonder Arab and European tastes differ.

death from above said...

The Observer article is bang on. Well written and well observed. Nothing racist about it in the slightest.

DXB hack said...

I agree it delved into the book of stereotype at times, and it was bordering on racist. But the general gist was surprisingly accurate (not to mention wonderfully bitchy and entertaining)

Anonymous said...

Granted the article is pompous and condescending, but I thought that was the whole point of art? Who cares what the UK's smuggest newspaper says about a crap little art gallery? Do you know anyone who's ever been there? I cetainly don't.

Anonymous said...

Which gallery are you talking about? I've been to most of the galleries in Dubai, and most of the small ones in London too :)

To be fair - he is right, there is a small but buregeoning underground arts scene in Dubai. It is mostly showcasing other arab artists but some locally produced stuff is coming out.

It's far more interesting to highlight this Dubai creativity (god knows there isn't much of it here) than the multi-million dollar foreign art.

But I guess local, low key art doesn't get you headlines in the international press.

Agree on the pomposity of the piece though...first rate sneering.

Anonymous said...

I was talking about the Third Line, which had some of its pieces exhibited at the show the article talks about.

Anonymous said...

You've never been to the third line? You should...always worth a look.

Anonymous said...

I have had colleagues going on and on about how injust this article was... I thought it was fine and it actually made me laugh, but I thought I was the only person that felt that way. I see now that I'm not!

Anonymous said...

It's written in a pompous, colonial and provocative manner. But the points it raises are valid.

Anonymous said...

Article was patronising and unfunny. Remember, he writes for the rag that bigged up Damien Hirst, Tracy Emin and all the other shite brit-art idiots, whose stock has somewhat fallen since even Saatchi worked out it was all emporer's new clothes. I don't think even teh "taste-less" emiratis are going to be stupid enough to bouy up that sinking stone by buying 1990s UK tat.

Anonymous said...

instead, the Emiratis are buoying up French culture by paying however many gazillion to borrow the Louvre name and some of its spare paintings.

Anonymous said...

I think the article's downright racist and patronising. Re: dressed in towels and camels...

But why am I not surprised?

Anonymous said...

Yeah .. spending billions on recognised names such as louvre and guggenheim. Not pretentious tosh of recent years.

Incidentally, till recently a Qatari prince was one of the world's great art collectors. had excellent taste, a great eye, and an unlimited cheque book. Till he was arrested for misappropriating state funds. These days, they'd have put him in charge of the art project

Anonymous said...

It's no worse than some of the stuff you see in the Khaleeji Arabic press.

Horrible stereotyping, yes. Racist, possibly. Downright racist, only if you've never experienced racism before.

Anonymous said...

I agree it's insulting and guilty of some heinous racial stereotyping: "sheets" and "towels" being amng the more alarming references.
In terms of culture and art in the Arab world, one thing to remember is the Arab tradition is an oral one. Add to this the issues within the Islamic faith of depicting the human form.
As for the claim that Emiratis are ignorant about art, many are not aware that Dr Anwar Gargash is one of the biggest collectors of art in the region. His collection of Islamic calligraphy is considered the finest in the world and he is a great patron of the arts.