Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi is a Director’s Fellow at the MIT Media Lab, and in this op-ed for CNN says that art can be a vital bridge to help ease the tensions in the Middle East citing that Dubai, with its thriving art scene, also has a “vibrant 90,000 Iranian community” and is an “essential link” between Iran and the pan Gulf countries.
The scholar writes about a Christie’s exhibition in Dubai which literally brought the Middle East together in 2006… at least, culturally. The exhibit featured the “finest sculptors from Egypt and Iran, the greatest painters from Turkey and Syria as well as from Morocco and Iraq…. Iranian masters such as minimalist landscape artist Sohrab Sephiri, calligraphers Hossein Zenderoudi and Mohammad Ehsai and glass mosaic artist Mounir Farmanfamian [were also featured].” Alexandre Kazerouni, a researcher at École Normale Supérieure in Paris commented, “those catalogues and exhibitions were not the first publications bringing together the two art scenes (Arab and Iranian), but the first ones to do it systematically and at a large scale embracing the modern and the contemporary productions.”
On the flip-side, Mr. Al Qassemi makes the point that “ it is essential that institutions in Tehran and other Iranian cities also open up to showcasing art by Arab artists to an Iranian audience so that the relationship isn’t viewed strictly through a political prism. Iran and its Gulf Arab neighbors are bound by geographic proximity as well as cultural and familial links.”