Islamic Art in the News
1. Via artnet.com we learn that 9/11 conspirator Mohammed Atta may have been selling Islamic art to fund his attack, according to a report in Der Spiegel:
Titled "Art As Financing for Terrorists?", the report states that Atta contacted a German art expert at Goettingen University during his time living in Hamburg in 2000 or early 2001, claiming that he had access to "ancient artifacts of considerable value" which he wanted to sell to raise funds for the purchase of an aircraft. The exact nature of the art objects is not known, but they are thought to have been cultural relics smuggled out of Afghanistan. The professor apparently recommended that Atta contact Sotheby’s.
Commenting on the story, Art Newspaper senior U.S. correspondent Jason Kaufman, who has reported extensively on the antiquities trade, stated, "Politicians have turned a deaf ear to archaeologists and scholars who complain that the illegal trade goes unchecked, but the revelation of the Al Queda link should give their cause greater traction with legislators." More on the story as it develops.
2. Also via artnet.com is a story from the Wall Street Journal (gotta pay for it) about the crumbling market for Islamic art. The reason it's crumbling doesn't say much about why it was doing so well in the first place:
According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Al-Thani's replacement in Qatar's efforts will be "Mohamed Albdulraheem Kafoud, a professor of Arab literature and a former government minister." Perhaps after he gets up to speed, he'll help restore the market a bit.
The Islamic art market took a major hit back in April, following the arrest in March of Sheik Saud al-Thani, 38, a member of the royal family of Qatar and one of the big buyers in the field. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, sales at the April Islamic art auctions at Christie’s and Sotheby’s in London plunged 70 percent from the year before. At Sotheby’s, only a little more than one-third of the lots found buyers, a dramatically low rate of sell-through.
According to the report, al-Thani spent an estimated $26.4 million at the 2004 Islamic art sales, and is widely credited with helping triple the prices in the sector from 2001 to 2004. Al-Thani was in charge of buying art for five Islamic art museums being built in Qatar, the first of which opens in 2006. He is being investigated for misappropriating state funds.
3. OK, so there is one bit of good news for Islamic Art. Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal (or Walid bin Talal, depending on the source) donated $20 million to the Louvre to help build a new Islamic art wing.
At 43,000 square feet, the wing will quadruple the existing space for the Islamic art collection, Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres said Tuesday, in outlining plans for the project, which is slated for completion in 2009.According to The New York Times, however,
Prince Walid is less well known in France as a benefactor of the arts than as a shrewd businessman. He has a 17 percent stake in EuroDisney, the company that runs the Disneyland Paris resort outside the city. And he is owner, through the Kingdom Holding Company, of several of the city's most luxurious hotels, including the George V, on the street of the same name.Let's hope this will also restore the Islamic Art market (and that no scandal befalls Prince Walid before the Louvre cashes his check).
Though his EuroDisney investment has been less fruitful, the prince gained a reputation for financial acumen by investing in Citicorp, a predecessor of the current Citigroup, when its stock was depressed in 1991. Today he is Citigroup's largest single shareholder, and his personal fortune is estimated at $23.7 billion.
UPDATE: Tyler Green has news about an exhibition in New York of work by Iranian artists living in Iran, as opposed to Neshat and Hatoum*, who spend most of their time in the West now. From the exhibition's press release:
Curator/artist Farhad Moshiri asks us to consider what it is that makes a work ethnic, traditional or even contemporary for that matter. While his immediate point of departure is Iran, his exhibition raises questions as to labeling tendencies at large, finally destabilizing us, for we are all implicated in the reductionist games at hand. Within the bounds of the works on display, the lines between kitsch, art and craft are impossibly blurred.Certainly sounds like it's within the mainstream contemporary dialog. Perhaps I'm just not looking hard enough. Thanks Tyler.
*Who's Palestinian, not Iranian, but who lives in London mostly.