x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Always on a lookout for those little gems

The Life: No day is ever the same for Christie's head of sale in Dubai, Hala Khayat, but it's the enjoyment of working with beautiful art that drives her.

Hala Khayat of Christie's in Dubai. Charles Crowell for The National
Hala Khayat of Christie's in Dubai. Charles Crowell for The National

Hala Khayat became the head of sale at Christie's in Dubai last November after starting at the auction house as a freelancer in 2006. She presided over the first auction in her new role this month. Here the Syrian explains why no two working days are ever alike.



My days start early because I have a family. My twin boys, age 10, are off to school by 6.45am. Sometimes I go back to sleep. I go for a small walk, get a coffee then head to the office. I am not a big sports person but I am trying.



We are based in the DIFC and because we are also a public space we have a lot of people walking in without prior appointments. So sometimes when I walk in, there is someone waiting for me, bringing in some valuable item for us to see. So there may be a valuation to be done or we try to put them in touch with the correct specialists in London, Paris, New York or China.



I check requests, emails and have an espresso. Every day is a new challenge but we are working with amazing and beautiful items. In Dubai, we have two seasons of sales and every season we have two auctions. We are always looking for works from private collectors and dealers so we travel in the region; we cover Morocco, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iran - even Europe and the States. We are always on the lookout for little gems - art from modern and contemporary times. The minute we find something we try to research that piece … finalise the contracts. Then we follow up until the painting reaches Dubai. When the works are in Dubai, we check the condition, measure them, write captions and the catalogue, suggesting framing if needed. Then there is promotion and selling. Our main selling tool is our catalogue. We research every work and there are essays in the catalogue and the biographies. We do the press for the sale and give interviews to promote the pieces. We have a series of lunches and dinner and talks. Every six months the whole process starts again



I try for lunch with clients at least three times a week. Two times a week I have lunch at my desk - I order in with colleagues.



During sales week we are standing for 18 hours a day but it pays off because we take people on tour, students … education is really key. On sale day, the auction starts at 7pm. It lasts about an hour. What is tricky about an auction is that we have a month to promote it but at the end of the day we have a few minutes to sell every painting. It's not like in a gallery where they have one artist for 30, 40 days. The drive behind all of this is real love for the art and real appreciation for the artists behind the art. Lots of the social activities I do are work related. I don't really [otherwise] go out a lot a night. I like to stay home and chill.