x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Dubai paints a broad canvas for art buyers

The Life: An influx of investors are expected to be browsing through galleries in the emirates once Art Week begins on Friday. Here is what both art aficionados and novices may want to consider.

Isabelle de La Bruyère, the director of the auction house Christie's Middle East, introduced a new price bracket to entice young collectors. Christie's ME
Isabelle de La Bruyère, the director of the auction house Christie's Middle East, introduced a new price bracket to entice young collectors. Christie's ME

An influx of investors are expected to be browsing through galleries in Dubai once Art Week begins on Thursday. Here, Antonia Carver, the fair director for Art Dubai, and Isabelle de La Bruyère, the director of the auction house Christie's Middle East, discuss the changing art market.

How might cautious investors want to get into this market?

Ms de La Bruyère: Always speak to specialists who are in a gallery, auction house, or just a friend who may be in the business. A collection takes time to put together; buy things that you really love. At the end of it, you'll have to live with those works. No investor should be able to turn [a piece] around in less than five years. You can't turn around art that quickly.

Ms Carver: In times of crisis, people will put their money into assets they feel as safest, and art is increasingly seen that way. As a fair, we always advise people to buy from the heart and go with gut instinct and the aesthetic appeal. At the same time, there have been collectors [where] over the last two to four years their investments have gone up substantially, particularly with Iranian art.

How have economic sanctions against Iran affected this region's art market?

Ms Carver: I imagine what you've seen for [reduced] commodities and food [trade] is also fairly similar for the art sector. The difference here is, for artists, it's a very globalised market. There are Iranian artists based out of Iran, and their work is still coming into Dubai. While times are very difficult for artists in the art sector in Iran, people are still managing to get their art out and show it, and there's the kind of cultural angle as well as economic one that furthers that.

Where are art buyers in the UAE coming from?

Ms de La Bruyère: Usually, on average, every sale we have [includes] bidders from approximately 22 countries ... from the Americas, Asia, and all over.

Ms Carver: Traditionally, Dubai has been seen as a place to buy Iranian and Arab work. Now you're seeing south Asia becoming more and more prominent, and Dubai becoming a funnel for work coming from Pakistan. You see a lot of Pakistani collectors basing themselves here [in] Dubai.

Why is the industry pushing more affordable art as an investment alternative?

Ms Carver: For first-time investors [and] people coming to Art Dubai, there's a misconception that all people's work is out of people's price range. There are works that will go up to US$1 million [Dh3.67m], but at the same time, young galleries are showing younger artists whose work is selling for $2,000 [to] $5,000, which is [more] accessible.

Ms de La Bruyère: We introduced, in 2011, a new price bracket [of] $2,000 to $3,000 ... to entice the younger generation of collectors who [don't] necessarily want to spend $10,000 [to] $28,000 on a work of art but want to start collecting.

nparmar@thenational.ae