An Arab Spring at Sotheby’s

Nobody could ever have imagined that the kind of events in late 2010 into 2011 would bring about the tremendous change the world is now bearing witness to in North Africa and the Middle East. Social, political and cultural changes in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and elsewhere are sweeping these countries and this vast region toward a seismic chance, finally — after a combined 95 years and more of gerontocratic obedience by a few ruling families — towards democratic rule and a renewal of the human spirit.

Love is prevailing over fear. The schism between servants and masters has finally eroded decades-old regimes. Thanks in part to the organizational success using social media, the people of Tunisia and Egypt have spoken, the strength of their collective societal voice has been heard, while in too many other places the same battle is being waged. Watch this video report: Tunisia and The Spark That Launched Uprisings which previously aired on 60 Minutes.

The transformational era of change is upon us. Daily hardship spurred mainly by high unemployment has for too long brought virtual hopelessness and loss of dignity to the men and women throughout the region. But in just a few short albeit bloody weeks, entrenched, malignant realities have given way to a future filled with hope and promise. Surreal? Real. People from these largely under-resourced, youth-driven countries are now majoring in pride and courage. No more will they live without at least a fair chance at negotiating a better life for themselves, enriched with the sense of dignity that keeps a healthy person both loved and fearless.

The artworks above: Fear by Christopher Wool, Holding Onto The Future by Antony Gormley and Love by Robert Indiana, provocatively illustrate the artists’ ability to communicate universal and eternal messages which move and haunt. The life trajectories of these works and the timeliness of Sotheby’s contemporary art auction in mid-February are both remarkable and eerie but befitting its prestige place in our evolving, modernizing world. Fear made of black ink on mylar and Love constructed from polychrome and aluminium, echo loudly, while Gormley’s cast iron individuals conjure a long journey ahead. All are terribly emotion-ridden.

In FT’s “Why The World’s Youth Is In a Revolting State of Mind”, Martin Wolf writes: “But they should remember that the young will win in the end. It is only a matter of time — just more of it.” Reassuringly optimistic, I say, because it’s possible, at long last.

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