Published  05/06/2007

To Dubai, to Buy

The proactive three of the seven United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and minuscule Sharjah, have formed a triplemover with a surge in the Gulf of high profile museum building for the Arts. The Gulf Art Fair held early in March proved for dealers and writers to be the 'freebie' to end all. The world has moved on from the time when such states, and their leading Sheikhs, were only interested in beautiful horses, as represented by Stubbs, or beautiful women. But there was a sure element of choice in favoured contemporary art deriving from traditional local preferences or prevailing taboos. Gilbert and George seemed to be non grata, and the obese females of Jenny Savile were sadly also not welcome, on the basis that they devalued highly upheld ideals of the female form. (But, where are you, Fatima?) In some contradiction, Damien Hirst's work was selectively welcomed, on the grounds that his 'butterflies' could appeal to the colour sense of the Arab collector. The annual celebration of contemporary art here by the Dubai International Financial Centre is now intended to repeat, and clearly the present buoyancy of the art market has a major bearing on this policy. Buyers indigenous to the region, such as Sheikh Sabah al-Sabah, the emir of Kuwait, and Sheikh Saud al-Thani of Qatar, will increasingly be augmented by others. Watch this space.

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