Arty Farty

Recently I had the pleasure of visiting the most prestigious art fair in the region. Under the impression that art stood separate from the materialistic world and the mundane affairs of ordinary people, I ventured in, hoping to be culturally enlightened.  During the fair I made quite a few observations which I thought were worth sharing.

Waltzing in came the rich and famous, stepping out of their Bentley’s, Ferrari’s and Masarati’s all dressed impeccably  from top to bottom. Cocktail dresses, ball gowns and suits made their way onto the red carpet subtly inching towards the camera’s in the hope that they would be spotted. And then there were some who had come simply to appreciate and perhaps purchase the artwork that was being showcased with poise.

Despite the rabble making barely concealed light sabre noises every time they passed this one by.

Equipped with their glass of wine or champagne (depending on their preference) in one hand, cigarette or cigar in the other the region’s elite made a painful attempt to connect with serious art and it’s background.  “Of course it’s absolutely gorgeous, so creative” when looking at a bag of sacks or even “it’s unbelievable” whilst inspecting it and secretly thinking to themselves – what the hell is this supposed to be?

Others were immersed in conversation, which relayed around the likes of, “Oh I love your dress! Who are you wearing?” Chanel, Dior and Gucci were names which continuously floated around throughout the evening and the depth of these conversations would occasionally expand to “Have you seen the jewelry on display at Cartier? I’ve made up my mind, I want that long necklace, you know the one that’s shaped like a snake, it’s ab-so-lutely gorgeous.”

Whilst the art savvy amongst the lot admired the figurative, abstracts and studied the artist’s depiction of suffering, pain and subtle references to pop culture, the elite focused on the monetary value attached to the pieces, ‘I bought a painting from this Egyptian artist – I forget his name but it was a whopping 60,000 US dollars. I got a great price’ and others continued ‘I heard someone say Salman Toor was a great investment – I just went and bought all his work – upcoming artist and all you know – great investment – bloody good’

I could have bought food for the entire African continent but… look at it!!!

Meanwhile I continued to silently observe the polarized audience the art fair attracted and it dawned upon me – that although the rich were armed with money they remained culturally ignorant and intellectually insecure. Whilst they were fulfilling their unexplainable need to attend the fair and make a lasting impression, the history of civil societies remained untouched.  They were afraid to express their feelings about the artwork on display in fear of being looked down upon and so they threw on an invisible cloak in the hope that their uninformed views would be hidden away, concealed from their world. Unfortunately for them, their apprehensions were trampled upon by some.

And the thought that art was subjective suddenly had a whole new meaning.


Tania Shaikh: Working with Elle magazine in Dubai – you will always find me behind a computer screen typing away.With a published book under my belt, and hopefully more to come I continue my endless search for sanity and some answers through words. You can read more of my work at



Categories: The World I Know


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