Here is a story that cannot be underplayed. One of the lasting effects of the financial crisis will be the transference of the center of world culture from Europe to the Mid-East or Asia. This is issue isn’t whether it will happen but where the new center will be: Abu Dhabi or somewhere in China.
Financially, the East is making huge investments in art as an infrastructure. Buying up talent and works as Western institutions are being cut back. The only limit on this shift is the very undeveloped nature of the arts infrastructure in the East.
This has already worked to Western advantage. It’s easier to build alliances with the world’s great museums to gain access to their collections than it would be to buy them — the collections or the institutions.
The Financial Times makes this point rather bluntly when it quotes Phillipe de Montebello on the matter:
Speaking at the Florens 2010 international forum on cultural heritage in Florence, Italy, Dr Wafaa el-Saddik, general director of Cairo’s Egyptian Museum, told the Financial Times there was a “strong feeling” that the Middle East, led by the United Arab Emirates, “will be the new cultural capital of the world”.
“We are not affected by the crisis, we are not suffering, there is a lot of money. It is a great advantage,” Dr Saddik said, adding that 2012 would be crucial because several museums were opening in the region and “the Middle East will really be the centre of the cultural map”.
Philippe de Montebello, director emeritus of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, agreed that strong economies in the Middle East and also China were competing culturally. “My only answer to this shift in history is: why begrudge them? It’s their turn. Art always goes where money goes, and where money is made,” he told the FT.
Middle East Stands to Gain from Arts Cuts (Financial Times)