x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Art auction house enters youth period

Christies new sales format is deemed a success, attracting a younger audience of art enthusiasts.

Five Emirati artists were introduced to the global market in the second part of Christie’s auction in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National
Five Emirati artists were introduced to the global market in the second part of Christie’s auction in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National

The bid by the auctioneer Christie's to attract a younger and more diverse audience of art lovers paid off this week after its new auction format exceeded sales expectations.

For the first time in the Middle East, the international auction house split its sale over two nights in Dubai, with the first part for more expensive and renowned artists and the second for rising stars and local talent at lower starting prices.

Sales on the second night, Tuesday, reached US$2.3 million (Dh8.4m), beating the pre-sale estimate of $2m, and 39 of the 150 artists whose works were being sold were younger than 35.

Isabelle de La Bruyère, the Middle East director of Christie's, says the second night was "packed" with young people looking to dip their toes into the world of modern and contemporary Arab, Iranian and Turkish art.

"When I looked around the sales room, it was quite surprising how many young buyers there were or people buying for the first time," said Ms de La Bruyère. "It was a younger crowd and it was good to see that."

Five contemporary Emirati artists were being introduced to the international auction market at the second part of the sale, and both saw personal records for their pieces.

Fifty-three were sold on the second night with estimates under $10,000. Eighty-three per cent of the pieces on offer were sold, and Turkish artists were completely sold out.

"It really does show you that the end market is going towards contemporary art and the younger generation want to buy art from their generation," said Ms de La Bruyère.

Christie's sold a total of $7.3m of artwork over the two nights, above pre-sale expectations, with the highest price paid for a piece by Sohrab Sepehri, an Iranian artist who died in 1980. The painting sold for $662,500, a world record for the artist.

Pieces auctioned on the first night started at approximately $50,000, while the lowest starting bid on the second night was $1,500.

Christie's has already introduced the auction format it used in Dubai to the markets in London, New York and Hong Kong. Ms de La Bruyère said the overall market in the Middle East was "solid", despite global market uncertainties.

But the regional art market did take a blow this week with news that the tendering process for construction of the Guggenheim museum in Abu Dhabi had been delayed.

The museum, which is to house a contemporary art collection, was originally set to open in 2013 and was expected to boost the Middle East art market.

The Guggenheim is to be part of the museum district on Saadiyat Island, which is to include the Zayed National Museum, a branch of the Louvre, a performing arts centre and a maritime museum.

"Art education is most important to raise awareness," said Ms de La Bruyère. "I'm sure the museum will happen, whether it is delayed or not, but most important is the education among young people."

rjones@thenational.ae