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Saudi Prince Stars In An Experimental Film By Ariel Babinsky

From fashion forecasts to a royal screening, my unpredictable experience with aristocracy and art.

ariel babinsky art

At four months pregnant, the last place I ever expected to find myself was in the London screening room of a member of the Saudi royal family. And yet in April 2019, that’s exactly where I ended up.

As a trend forecaster, I discuss and analyze expected trends in the industry. So I was invited to London to give a lecture on the future of fashion, during a PR event that brought in designers from around the world to showcase their latest collections. It’s one of the reasons I love my job so much. It opens doors to events like this that allow me to network with fascinating people who are at the top of their game.

ariel babinsky art

Now, of course, going into this event I expected to rub elbows with some big names. Stella McCartney, Donatella Versace, Anna Wintour. However, the PR agency that invited me to speak had recently come under the direction of the last person I ever expected to meet at such a gathering. For privacy reasons, I can’t give away his identity, but we can just call him Mr. Prince. Although not actually a Prince, he's a high-ranking member of the Saudi royal family. Dressed in traditional Saudi attire – robe-like garment and checkered headscarf – he was hard to miss, especially at an event where fashion was a statement.

After my talk, Mr. Prince weaved through the crowd to compliment me on my presentation. He was impressed – which was a surprise. It’s not every day you hear a member of a royal family admire your work. He asked me a million questions, all of which I gleefully answered.

Not only did he know so much about PR and trend forecasting, but everything about him intrigued me. His etiquette was so polished, I couldn’t resist asking where he went to school. Eton College in Windsor, of course! Then Oxford. When I told him I was thinking about getting a degree in Art History (yes, that’s what I do for fun), the conversation diverged to art. He told me he was thinking about opening a gallery in London and my heart leapt. Was he about to ask me to manage it?

Well, he didn’t, but what he proposed instead peaked my interest in quite a different way. Now, one thing you need to know about me – I’m not one to turn down interesting opportunities! So when Mr. Prince asked if I’d like to watch an artistic film he’d taken part in, I thought, “Hell yeah!”

ariel babinsky art

Fast forward through the afternoon... There I was, stepping into his Mayfair home. If you’ve never been to London, Mayfair isn’t just posh. It's the epitome of luxury and old money. So imagine me, just a normal Jewish gal, stepping into a building that belonged to the Saudi royal family. The building itself could easily have been mistaken for a set straight out of a historical British drama. The inside was no less fabulous. Although technically it could be called just a grandeur apartment, I prefer the term palace, because that’s how it felt.

ariel babinsky art

Among his antique decor, two paintings caught my eye: an amazing Rothko (which he said was a never-seen-before piece) and a portrait of Debbie Harry by Andy Warhol. Yeah, Mr. Prince wasn’t joking when he said he loved art. And yet the real surprise awaited in a small, intimate screening room. It was here that Mr. Prince screened the artistic film he’d mentioned. It was so very NOT what I was expecting, and yet that made it that much more fascinating.

The film was created by none other than artist and filmmaker, Ariel Babinsky. It was a single, unbroken shot of Mr. Prince himself sitting stark naked on a chair, wearing nothing but a white mask. Yep. You read that right. A royal member of the Saudi family staring directly at the camera. He had a mask on, but it was clear, this was him in all his… erm… how do I say, glory??

Yeah, he was completely naked!

The whole video was short, not more than five minutes. At first, I was waiting for something more to happen, but then about half way, when he still wasn’t moving, the meaning of it clicked. It was art in its most raw form. If you think about Saudi culture, specifically their dress, you probably think of modesty. So for a member of the Saudi royal family to strip away his garb and lock eyes with the camera completely nude… Well, you can understand why I’m not revealing his name.

Anyway, here I was, four months pregnant, an observer from a world apart, drawn into Mr. Prince’s unexpected circle of artistic intimacy. I still don’t know exactly why Mr. Prince shared this deeply personal art piece with me. For all intents and purposes, I was a complete stranger to him. Maybe it was our shared appreciation of the avant-garde? Maybe it was just my general open-minded demeanor that made him comfortable enough to reveal this. It’s also likely that because he and I come from different worlds, I was a safe person to show this to.

Once the screening was over, I wanted to ask him about his desire to take part in this, and yet, it felt like asking questions would ruin the moment. And besides, like the best art, no explanation was needed.

ariel babinsky art

Reflecting on this bizarre experience, I can’t help but make my own personal connections. Trend forecasting exists as a method to measure the unpredictability of life, and yet even within it, there are still surprises. I can sit here and say that I know every direction a certain trend will unfold in, but that would be a lie. Even the best crystal ball has its foggy day.

So while I always try to stay firmly rooted on the edge of the next big thing, life is ultimately unpredictable. Never in a million years did I think a typical lecture about trends in fashion would lead to a private screening at a Mayfair home of a Saudi Prince. And yet it was the blend of business, art and the question of what it means to be human that offered this unique experience.

Life, much like trend forecasting, thrives on the thrill of the new, especially when you muster the courage to embrace the unknown.

ariel babinsky art


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