x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Opera Gallery: raising the auction bar

Opera Gallery hosts its company's first-ever auction in its DIFC branch this evening and the range of works to go under the hammer is nothing short of eclectic.

Chevaux et Jockeys by the artist Raoul Dufy.
Chevaux et Jockeys by the artist Raoul Dufy.

Opera Gallery is a worldwide network of galleries with outposts from Seoul to Florida. It looks after works from a broad sweep of art history - Salvador Dali shares a roster with Banksy, while the Chinese painter Yue Minjun is listed alongside Gustav Klimt.

Opera hosts the company's first-ever auction in its DIFC branch this evening, and the event is a first for all 11 of its galleries worldwide. Opera Gallery Dubai's director Mariam Hodge believes there's a hunger among the local market for exactly the sort of eclecticism that the gallery's broad coverage can provide.

"Dubai and the UAE are coming of age in the world of art," says Hodge. "There is a fresh and invigorating awareness in the attitude of the UAE's residents towards art. The local clientele are becoming discerning collectors with a thirst for fine works."

How robust that thirst is will be tested this evening, when 140 works with a wildly diverse range of estimates go under the hammer. There's a scene on a prairie by Claude Monet, with a top estimate of US$1 million (Dh3.67m); a late 1880s work by Pierre-Auguste Renoir; and plenty of diverse Dali works. Later in the evening, there are ceramics by Pablo Picasso and a whole selection of modern Indian artists (including a painting by the late, great MF Hussain), then a set of calligraphers, Iranian photographers and even a few more emergent names from the Middle East.

Doing away with the standard grouping of an auction curated around a region or an era of art history could prove hazardous to coherence. But Hodge says that the works have been chosen to attract a variety of clients. "By commencing a series of worldwide auctions starting in Dubai, we do not intend to compete with some of the more recognised auction houses but rather enhance the service provided by offering alternative styles of art work to the UAE marketplace."

Hodge says that this is the first of a series of auctions and Dubai will host two annually. But with Christie's restarting its auction season with a sale at Jumeirah Emirates Towers tomorrow and Wednesday, it remains to be seen how this newcomer to the auction calendar will fare.

• Opera Gallery's auction starts at 7pm at the Ritz Carlton, DIFC. Visit www.operagallery.com for details.

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