Why ‘Defending Gulf Money for the Arts’?

Youssef Ziedan recently found himself in the position of defending the inrush of Gulf money into the arts.

Organizations in the Gulf, particularly the UAE, have not just been pouring money into literature—such as the “Arabic Booker” that Ziedan won in 2009—but also art museums and film festivals.

Perhaps they aren’t always buying the right art or supporting the best authors. And yes, there is an ugly history of labor abuse in the UAE. Yes, there is censorship. Yes, the motives might not be entirely pure. (Of course, the motives of art philanthropists in the U.S. and Europe are sweet as cream and pure as driven snow.)

In any case, I can’t find it in me to wag my finger at the wealthy for spending money on art.

After all, it’s still quite difficult to get enough money together to put together a film in Arabic. And, indeed, most authors in the region, even quite good ones, still self-publish their works.