I sent in my response to the Financial Times.
Dear Mr. Hodgson,
I am responding to your Nov. 24, 2012 Financial Times article titled ‘Partygoers and Peacemakers.’ After reading your article, I was surprised to see how unnecessarily condescending and critical you were in regards to this exhibition, the artists exhibited, the V&A, and the Middle East in general. Below, I will respond to each of your statements.
In the article’s second paragraph, you condescendingly ask why the National Collection of Art of Photography is collecting works of art from the Middle East. My question to you is, why not? Would you rather they collect works from the USA, France or China? What is it about art from the Middle East that you find so ‘random’?
In the article’s fourth paragraph, you mention that the V&A exhibition is only showing a ‘sample platter’ of the themes of ‘Diaspora, invasion, and occupation…’ Mr. Hodgson, these are very broad themes, and there is no museum in the world that has the space to accommodate a ‘full platter’ of works on such themes. Also, this is a group exhibition, where visitors are offered a ‘sampler’ of artists’ works; isn’t that the point of a group exhibition. If you wanted to see ‘them in their entirety,’ research where some of these artists plan to have solo shows, and attend. That is, if these artists are worthy enough of your time.
In your sixth paragraph, you complain how there are no tweeted pictures, or pictures from social media sites. You do know you were coming to an art show, not a journalism conference. In art shows, one typically exhibits works by artists, not from tweeting citizens. When you state, “How can you hope to show anything of the power of photography in the Middle East without including the citizen-journalism, the blogging,…” what are you referring to? Are you saying that the Middle East doesn’t have great photographers, only great photojournalists?
In your seventh paragraph, your lack of knowledge of anything to do with the Middle East becomes clear. Mr. Hodgson, Amirali Ghasemi is an Iranian artist, and those people in his photograph are attending a party in Tehran, which is the capital of Iran, not a city in Saudi Arabia. The only thing that is ‘trivial’ is why you were selected by the Financial Times to write an article about an exhibition from a region you clearly know nothing about.
Your tenth paragraph states, ‘Nermine Hammam’s portraits of vulnerable young Egyptian conscripts have already been well circulated.” What do you mean by that Mr. Hodgson? Do you mean to say Ms. Nermine Hammam, a fantastic artist in her own right, has received too much publicity for her work? The reason why Ms. Hammam’s works have been well circulated is because she is a fantastic artist. Nermine only recently had a well-regarded solo show organized by Rose Issa Projects. She has only been ‘well circulated’ for a couple of months now, is that too much for you? Does it not bother you that Damien Hirst’s (or countless other artists’) many awful works have ‘already been well circulated’? May I add, that by putting a picture of one of her works as the main image of your article, you come across as hypocritical.
I for one, found this exhibition to be strong, interesting, and enlightening. I commend the V&A for introducing the works of a fantastic group of artists to the British public. Mr. Hodgson, I recommend you visit the exhibition again; this time with an open mind, some basic background knowledge about the Middle East, and a less condescending attitude.