One of the best of a new wave of Middle-Eastern artists is finding that success can mean uncomfortable compromisesby Ben Lewis / December 15, 2010 / Leave a comment
Published in January 2011 issue of Prospect Magazine
Middle-East conceptualism: Notebook volume 38 by Walid Raad
Much like the rest of the world economy, the focus of the art world has shifted east over the past few years, to China and the Middle East. Here, we are told, lies not only the world’s greatest concentration of new wealth, but also its most exciting new art.
The contemporary art scene in China is now well known— but the Middle East is a newcomer. The quality of its art ranges between two extremes. At one end is a predictable pop art that adapts the formulas of the west onto local icons. The worst exponent of this strategy is the Iranian Farhad Moshiri, whose gold-plated toy guns sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. But at the other end is some highly-charged, intellectual work, driven by the conflicts and repression of middle-eastern politics. This is an art that moves imaginatively beyond the formulae of the west, and has won attention thanks to the new market and institutions promoting it. With success, however, has come a predicament that is in danger of paralysing it.