x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Christie’s make record $14m in Dubai sale

Art collectors in the region are opening their wallets wider, Christie's latest auction rang up a record $14 million (Dh51.4m) in sales.

Art collectors in the region helped Christie's to make a record US$14 million (Dh51.4m) in sales at its latest auction.

The sale in Dubai, in which works by the Egyptian artist Mahmoud Said and the Iranian artist Mohammed Ehsai were auctioned, far surpassed its pre-sale estimate of $6.7m, with total proceeds up 117 per cent over last year's sale.

Michael Jeha, the managing director of Christie's in the Middle East, said the appetite for art was driven by improved global sentiment and a move by investors towards more tangible assets.

"In a climate where people are not sure where to put their money, art is enjoying a big bounce in terms of people seeing it as a good store of value," Mr Jeha said.

"Another important point to make is that the depth of buying in contemporary Middle Eastern art is really starting to increase."

While the business of art auctions in the UAE is relatively new, it has grown rapidly. Christie's held its first auction of international contemporary art in May 2006.

In 2008, the international fine art auction house Bonhams held its first sale in Dubai.

There are also continuing projects fostering an art scene in the region, such as Doha's Museum of Islamic Art, and the Louvre and Guggenheim museums being built on Abu Dhabi's Saadiyat Island.

Of the buyers at Tuesday's auction, held at the Emirates Towers, 60 per cent were from the Middle East, 28 per cent from Europe, 10 per cent from the Americas and 2 per cent from Asia.

Some of Christie's biggest international buyers were included among that number, said Mr Jeha.

"The market for contemporary Middle Eastern art is no longer confined to countries in the Middle East," he said. "It's now being globalised."

One highlight from the auction was the sale of Said's Whirling Dervishes for more than $2.54m, making it the most expensive Middle East painting sale.

An oil on canvas triptych called Banquet by Ehsai sold for $662,500, while eight works by the Syrian artist Fateh Moudarres sold for $374,500.

Pieces by Lebanese artists were also popular, with Paul Guiragossian'sLa Foule, selling for $110,500. The Turkish artist Fahrelnissa Zeid'sDervishes sold for $158,000, far above the estimated price of between $80,000 and $100,000.

The second portion of Christie's sale was held last night with an auction of watches and jewellery. The pre-sale estimate for the auction ranged between $13m and $17m.

aligaya@thenational.ae