Sheikh it, spray it: Ben Eine creates Abu Dhabi's first piece of street art

First it was David Cameron and Obama, now Ben Eine is hanging out with a Sheikh

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The Independent Culture

Banksy’s street artist pal Ben Eine has added another salubrious (and rather surprising) name to the list of world figures he’s rubbed shoulders with: Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan.

The Briton was invited to Abu Dhabi to create what is thought to be the country’s first piece of street art.

Sheikh Al Nahyan even picked up a spray can and helped paint the wall of the British Embassy, which is also Abu Dhabi’s second-oldest building.

The 40 metre mural is in Eine’s typical typographical style and spells out “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.

“I’m hoping that Abu Dhabi’s first piece of street art will inspire the next generation of artists the same way that the discovery of subway art inspired me all those years ago,” Eine said.

The Sheikh, who heads the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Culture, Youth, and Social Development, said the work “represents the strong relationship between the UK and the UAE” and “will inspire the next generation of artists”.

The artist, 44, who remains one of street art’s most established names, spent 20 years as a graffiti artist and was arrested between 15 and 20 times, convicted of criminal damage five times and only narrowly avoided a jail term.

Ben Eine with the Sheikh (Abul Kalam Amiri)

The former insurance salesman, who worked with Banksy for five years, was well-known in London for ‘Alphabet Street’ in Middlesex Street, Spitalfields, where he painted the entire A-Z on shop shutters.

But he gained international attention when Samantha Cameron suggested to her husband, Prime Minister David Cameron, that one of Eine’s works might make a nice present for the Obamas.

The PM presented Barack Obama with Eine's painting Twenty First Century City as part of a ceremonial exchange of gifts in 2010 and it now hangs in the White House.