Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Jimmy Choo's cruise collection is amazing this year, but this shoe in specific will break many a little heart like mine. It's called "Magnum" and at £695 it might well be lethal for your finances.


Wednesday, 10 November 2010

How brilliant is this artwork? Ghada Amer's Snow White

Here's another piece of art I fell in love with at the Residua exhibition (Al Maraya Gallery Sharjah

New York based Egyptian artist Ghada Amer is known for her intricate acrylic hand embroidered artwork, which employs threads and needles to create artwork that tackles issues of gender and sexuality. Amer’s dynamic body of work encompasses painting, sculpture and multimedia, exploring aspects of feminine identity, sexuality, and the representation of women in Art History and mass media.

Born in Cairo in 1963, Amer emigrated to the United States aged 11 and uses embroidery-an activity often associated with women- as a subversive tool to comment on contemporary women’s issues. Her technique consists of stitching and knotting loose threads on the face of the canvas and then using transparent gel and glue to paste them to the surface, thus creating an appearance likened to paint drips. Due to the complexity of this process, which often demands three months to complete, Amer’s portfolio is limited.

Ghada Amer studied at Ecole des Beaux Arts in Nice, the School of The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Institut des Hautes Etudes en Arts Plastiques in Paris. Her art has been exhibited around the world.

Friday, 5 November 2010

A must see: Lebanese Artist's social examinations + other very interesting works at Residua Exhibition (Sharjah)

I got to visit the Residua exhibition during my visit to the Sharjah International Book Fair this week. I don't pretend to understand art, but I visit exhibitions in London as often as I can, and this one felt as good if not better. The painting I'm showing here was one of those that hit me the most, because I felt I could really understand what the artist is trying to say.

Taghreed Darghouth examines transformations in culture and lifestyle in her native Lebanon through a series of meticulous paintings. One widespread obsession amongst Lebanese youth is cosmetic surgery, which Darghouth represents in a portrait series “Mirror, Mirror”, including a number of plastic surgery patients healing after surgery. Darghouth has also examined changes in relationships between Lebanese mothers and their children with the influx of hired domestic helpers from Ethiopia, the Philippines and Srilanka. In the “Mirror, Mirror” series, Darghouth, born in 1979, paints men and women who are swollen and bandaged after taking drastic steps to improve their beauty to make it conform more closely to a western ideal. The patients appear injured & abused when, in reality, their wounds are voluntary. The artist focuses specifically on the desire of youth to reduce the arch of their Semitic noses. The commonplace acceptance of plastic surgery has taken a role in re-shaping contemporary Lebanese culture. By focusing on the healing stage, Darghouth highlights the trauma involved in physically slicing away past cultural connections for new ones that are perceived as favorable. Much like “designer labels” donning a bandage on one’s nose has become a sign of wealth and fashion.

Seriously, if you're in Dubai, don't let the traffic scare you away (go before or after rush hour). This exhibition is really worth it. Here's more info about it and about Barjeel Art Foundation which is hosting it.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Arab Publishing, the reality?

The first session I attended today at the Sharjah International Book Fair was the one titled “Manufacturing of Arabian Publishing, the reality and ambition”. Having read the (depressing) statistics about the status of publishing in the region, I was prepared for what I was about to hear. Mr. Fathi Al Biss, a former publisher and Vice President of the Association of Arab Publisher talked passionately and from experience about the challenges that have plagued the book industry in the Arab world for decades.

According to various pieces of research, the average Arab reads for less than 6 minutes a year and whereas countries such as the UK publish 1 book for every 500 people, in the Arab world the ratio is as low as 1 book for 12000 people.

The challenges are many, but all, according to Mr. Al Biss are caused by the same factor: the lack of government support which showcases itself through censorship, absence of budgets, difficulties in distribution, overall disinterest in promoting culture etc.

I agree: apart from a few enlightened programs in the Gulf and especially the UAE, our governments have never implemented any significant cultural programs. Ministers are happy to have their photo taken cutting ribbons at book fairs, but that’s about all the support we can expect.

Therefore, why don’t we be realistic? In our region governments are often a roadblock, rarely a facilitator. The private sector has to fend for itself.

In many ways it has. If I look at the growing number of book retailers, I cannot but wonder if the figures used above aren’t too narrow. I mean the likes of Antoine Library, Magroudi’s, Virgin or Borders cannot possibly have been making losses all these years and it’s probably because they haven’t relied on Arab publishing. Walk into any of these bookstores today and you’ll most likely be presented with English or French best sellers rather than local reads. Somewhere, somehow people ARE reading, but we’re just not reading Arabic books, nor books by Arabs that are published in the Middle East.

This then begs the question: are regional publishers producing the right content, are they investing enough in packaging and marketing or are they out of touch with their audience? I cannot claim to have answers to those questions, all I can say is that as a reader, I often find myself at a loss for regional content and end up digging into the international best sellers pile.