Yesterday, the Mirror reported that Tommy Lee and ex-wife Pamela Anderson are buying a luxury home together in Dubai. Lee and Anderson bought “Greece” – one of the three hundred man-made islands forming The World off the coast of Dubai:
We’re going for Greece because I’m Greek originally, says Lee, “Pamela actually turned me on to the whole thing. Life is good now. I’m happy because I’m seeing my boys again.”
Once again, where Pamela goes, the art world follows.
In the May issue of Modern Painters, Matthew Collings writes about visiting the first Dubai DIFC Art Fair:
Pampered seminude white people cross my field of vision, give the Indians a glance, and disappear, and just as I’m thinking, “Wow, Martin Parr, great capturer of new social stereotype situations, should be here photographing all of this,” Martin Parr himself appears and takes a picture.
Dubai. 2007. Martin Parr/Magnum Photos
The way people dressed and their demeanour was very Bling,” writes Parr on the Magnum Blog, “not a word I have encountered much, but you know it when you see it.”
But the highlight for Parr wasn’t the blue-chip art:
Just before I left I was taken to a small souk in Sharjah where they actually sell things old, not an easy thing to locate in Dubai. There, to my amazement, was a fantastic selection of Saddam Hussein plates, vases and ornaments…So I returned, rather pleased with myself, with a huge bag full of Saddam pottery.
In the Modern Painters article, Matthew Collings talks about the “transubstantiation of bilge into stuff of awe.” But the bilge he’s talking about isn’t cultural ephemera like Saddam pottery:
It’s only a matter of time before the emirates’ superrich have the same funny relationship to contemporary art that we have in the West: alienated familiarity. We’ve gotten used to a spectacular culture of art in which we both question the bullshit and buy the bullshit. The bullshit is bullshit but at the same time it’s a status symbol: “Look at me! I own the bullshit they’re all questioning!” This is the paradox the art-fair people are now in the process of selling to the wealthiest people in the world.