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Art Market & You : JAMAL KHASHOGGI MISSING – THE ARTWORLD REACTS

Through Art Market & You, Art From Us provides you Analysis, Opinion and Factual Reports regarding the current on-goings of the Global Art Market. In this article, we discuss the mysterious disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

On October 2, 2018, Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi went missing from the consulate of Saudi Arabia in Turkey, Istanbul. Khashoggi was a resident of the United States and a critic of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He was at the consulate to obtain documents relating to his impending marriage to Turkish national Hatice Cengiz. Initially the consulate maintained its position that Khashoggi had gone missing after his departure from their premises. However, on October 20, 2018, they released a statement saying he died in the building, following a fight. Whereabouts of the journalist’s body are yet unknown.

The incident has undoubtedly created ripples in the realm of world politics and consequently in the world of art.

Impact on the Art World : Russia

On October 19, 2018, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) confirmed that it was taking an exhibition of Russian art to Saudi Arabia for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Future Investment Initiative conference. The conference is slated to be held in Riyadh next week. The exhibition will showcase the works of the 20th century Russian greats including Wassily Kandinsky.

Vladimir Putin issues a statement regarding the exhibition. He rejected notions that Russia will cut ties with Saudi Arabia, especially over an issue that has not been thoroughly investigated.

The Russians have clearly indicated where they stand. Subsequently, institutions all over the world are being pressured to state their opinion on the Jamal Khashoggi issue.

Impact on the Art World : New York

A day before the launch of the Arab Art and Education Initiative in New York it was revealed that the program, an initiative to showcase Middle Eastern art, is indirectly funded by Saudi’s crown prince through the Misk Art Institute. Museums including the Guggenheim refused to back out of the program despite the sensitive nature of the issue.

The MET however has decided to forgo their funding and self-fund their seminar on Collecting and Exhibiting The Middle East. In another instance, the CEO of Sotheby’s, Tad Smith, cancelled a scheduled talk in Saudi Arabia alongside Director of the Hermitage, Mikhail Piotrovsky. Similarly, the MoMA’s Modern Mondays: Monira al Qadri is also an independently funded show.

The Brooklyn Museum seemed to have been on the fence about their funding decisions regarding exhibition Syria Then and Now: Stories from Refugees a Century Apart. Initially the museum announced that they would accept Saudi funding. Hyperallergic reported exhibition curator Aysin Yoltar-Yildirimis explaining this decision stating “we can’t control what our leaders do”. More recently however, a spokesperson announced that in order to maintain “harmony with the international community’s concerns”, the museum will not accept the funds.


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