x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Opening new doors for European art

q&a Jussi Pylkkänen is the President of the Middle Eastern and European divisions of Christie's.

Jussi Pylkkänen, the Christie's auctioneer.
Jussi Pylkkänen, the Christie's auctioneer.

On October 26, the already opulent halls of Emirates Palace will play host to Christie's Landmark International exhibition which features works by Monet, Gaugin, Rothko and Warhol alongside a selection of contemporary Chinese artists, all of which will go on auction later this year. The exhibition also offers a rare chance to see the collection of the UAE Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, Abdul Rahman Mohammed al Owais, which includes contemporary Middle Eastern artwork by the Lebanese painter Chafic Abboud, the Emirati artist Abdul Qader al Rais and the Egyptian sculptor Mahmoud Mokhtar. Jussi Pylkkänen, the President of the Middle Eastern and European divisions of Christie's, took a moment to share with us his thoughts on the show and about the burgeoning Middle Eastern art market.

We thought we should try to broaden our footprint in the Middle East. We were invited by Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority to exhibit in the Emirates Palace and it made perfect sense to do it.

There are 100 paintings as well as important pieces of jewellery that have been chosen to illustrate what Christie's will sell in the coming months. We've selected things that represent the greatest - the headliners at auctions in Hong Kong, London and Dubai. In the impressionist field, there are works by Renoir, Monet and Manet and in the post-war group there are works by Rothko, Richter and Bacon. There is also a selection of top Chinese contemporary art that I believe has never been shown in the region before. There are some collections that have already been curated and we have put together a selection of the most interesting pieces.

Yes. It's just to give collectors in the region an idea of the type of collections that have been put together in the last 10 to 15 years in the Middle East, to give them an idea of how individuals are curating their own collections.

Everybody can become a great collector. For me, it's key that we encourage as many collectors in the region to engage in international auctions, from Saudi Arabia to Qatar and Egypt. This show gives us an opportunity to find out what drives the market. We've only been in the Middle East for two years, but we are the stock exchange for the art market. We find out what people want to acquire on the basis of the travelling exhibits.

Regional collectors have a huge appetite for contemporary Middle Eastern art and Orientalist art, and that's an area where Middle Eastern clients are comfortable. The value of Middle Eastern art will only increase with time. Now they are becoming engaged in international post-war and impressionist art. We have seen the appetite for non-Middle Eastern art sales grow quickly. We're excited to see the response to the contemporary Chinese works, because they have risen to international prominence quickly. I'd be surprised if Middle Eastern collectors weren't impressed by it. Our Arab clients have great taste and an eye for quality, which is why we're extremely interested in Abu Dhabi.

I have never considered the other auction houses as competitors. They're introducing more people to good art in the region. But having a strong art market is about having great fairs, which already exist here and also about having Sotheby's, Bonhams, and Phillips de Pury & Company here. It's a win-win situation for everybody.

Christie's Landmark International Art Exhibition, today, 3 to 10pm, and tomorrow 11am to 8pm, Emirates Palace (02 690 9000).