Search archive

Platform for discussion005

How has a globalised cultural economy affected the production of contemporary visual culture in North Africa and the Middle East?

HG Masters
7 May 2013

Firstly, and most immediately, I object to the characterisation of the context in which this question is situated. There is, of course, a marketplace for what we call cultural goods, including artworks, but there's no reason to situate all artworks immediately in an economy. Things that are made solely for the purposes of being bought and sold are design products; things (or events) that are authentic artworks are primarily created for other purposes, namely intellectual or aesthetic interest – even if they end up being sold at a later point. Granted, much of what is called 'contemporary art' in the world is, in fact, in the former category . . . and in that regard you could say that the globalised cultural economy consists primarily in trading counterfeit goods, under the name of Art, making it a kind of grey market (that is, one is that secretive, unregulated, and full of knockoffs).


In addressing the question, all I can say is that I hope that 'the demands of news media, journalism, cultural diplomacy and international market integration' do not influence the creation of artworks at all. These seem are all of the wrong reasons to create anything that aspires to be art. For instance, the paucity of politically independent journalism in the whole region ideally would be corrected by journalists and other supporters of democratic and secular societies, not specifically by artists – though I realise that artists' independent status often allows them to say, write, and portray things that are not possible in the compromised fields of politics and media. Cultural diplomacy is basically a bogus idea. Artists of all varieties don't need diplomatic approval to talk to one other; they are already colleagues and peers. Only governments need to instrumentalise culture in such a manner, usually as cover for 'market integration' or trade relations. So, who exactly is waking up in the morning, looking at Al Jazeera's Twitter feed and the local news, and then deciding what to create that day? That seems like precisely the class of creative designers who are who are responsible for much of the post-Pop, ersatz appropriation art (often speciously ennobled as 'political art') that is so ubiquitous in the 'globalised cultural economy'.

HG Masters

is a writer and editor-at-large for ArtAsiaPacific magazine, as well as the editor of the annual ArtAsiaPacific Almanac, a survey of the year in art in 67 countries, from Turkey to Tuvalu. He was director of Global Art Forum_7 'It Means This', held at Mathaf, Doha, and Art Dubai, in March 2013.

of 13

Back to platform responses

What is a platform?

A platform is a space for speaking in public. It is an opportunity to express ideas and thoughts. It also suggests the formal declaration of a stance or position on any given subject.

Unique to Ibraaz is a 'platform', a question put to writers, thinkers and artists about an issue relevant to the MENA region. This platform is sent to respondents both within and beyond the MENA region and contributions will be archived every 12 months.