Art and Islamic stereotypes draw economic summit's interest

The recent Global Islamic Economic Summit turned part of its attention to the evolution of Islamic art and its appeal to investors.

Ahmed Salim, founder of 1001 Inventions UK, moderated a panel of experts from around the globe, including Giuseppe Moscatello, art director at the UAE’s Maraya Art Foundation; Mai Eldib, consultant at Sotheby’s Egypt; and Yannick Lintz, Islamic Art director at the Louvre Museum in Paris. 1001 Inventions UK is an internationally recognized science and cultural heritage group with a mission to educate the public on the Muslim civilization’s golden age of creativity. 

“In 1001 inventions, we’re trying to make the history and image of the region more accurate and positive,” Salim said. “Islamic art breaks the negative stereotype associated with the word ‘Islamic’ in the world – particularly, the West.”

Lintz said most of the 9 million annual visitors to the Louvre are not aware of the artistic side of Muslim history.

“Opening the Islamic art wing in the museum was part of an effort is to promote Islamic art on the same level as European art,” he said. “Islamic art has been in Europe for centuries; in fact, one of the sessions we organized at the museum was about Islamic art in France, where we displayed items of Islamic art found among churches’ treasures in small cities in France.”

The wing of the museum dedicated to Islamic art includes more than 20,000 pieces that came from all over the world.

“The Louvre is housed in an old palace, but for this new department, we introduced a new room designed with contemporary architecture,” Lintz said. “The department has seen more than 3 million visitors since its inauguration in 2012 – this is no small number. What is more, we are always working to develop programs outside the confines of the museum itself. We now have accords with museums in the Islamic world in places like Cairo, Tehran and Istanbul. The time is now to create an international network of directors of Islamic arts museums.”

Lintz also noted that the Louvre Abu Dhabi can be used as a valuable resource, as its Parisian counterpart will share its experience with the developing UAE branch, offering guidance on how, where, and when to purchase Islamic art to include in its existing collection of 300 pieces. As the collection expands, the Abu Dhabi museum will need to rely less and less on bringing in pieces from France.

“This, in the long run, will reflect positively on the country’s economy,” Moscatello said. “The art scene in the UAE – and the region – is looking at positive growth, seeing as a majority of the population in the gulf is under the age of 30, and many young artists are emerging. These artists are most often represented by galleries, which is important to further their careers, and the government is supporting our efforts.”

Eldib said she sees two concepts that fall under the umbrella of Islamic art: pieces from the Islamic empire until the year 1900, largely desired by Western collectors, and post-1900 Arab and Iranian art, which could have been created by anyone living in the Middle East regardless of religion. This art style tends to sell in the MENA region.

“When it comes to investing in art, it’s a tricky discussion,” Eldib said. “Art doesn’t yield dividends like bonds or stocks, yet it is now very much coveted as an asset. Art from the region remains undervalued because the modern art scene is still developing. However, events like Art Dubai are placing local and regional artists on the international map. Once an artist surpasses their niche aspect of being an Egyptian, Saudi, Emirati, etc., artist, the value of their art goes up.”

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Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry

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