x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Going once... Christie's viewings weren't intended for teenagers

It doesn't take long for these high school students to realise they're the only teenagers in the room at a Christie's preview.

Showing up at a Christie's preview can quickly lead to a sinking feeling.
Showing up at a Christie's preview can quickly lead to a sinking feeling.

When Christie's conducted an auction in Dubai recently, I was hoping that I would be able to try my hand at bidding for an item I liked. Maybe a Van Gogh or something nice. A few of us decided that we had had enough of H&M and Accessorize, and it was time to go high profile with antique jewellery. Entrance was free, we realised, and we even found a willing mum, who had been planning to have a look, to escort us there.

After we had made up our minds up to attend the viewing of the pieces of art, jewellery and watches that were to go under the hammer, we found that the real auction was to take place on another date that didn't suit any of us. This was the excuse we made to each other, anyway. It's a pity I looked at the price tags so much later: I had set my heart upon buying a sculpture that looked like a cross between the Burj Khalifa and a colourful water bottle.

When the valet had driven the car away, we walked into the Jumeirah Emirates Towers hotel, looking for the Godolphin Ballroom where the viewing was to take place. We were ushered into a foyer and wet towelettes were thrust under our noses. It wasn't my fault I dropped mine immediately and invited stares; I didn't know it would be steaming hot. Matt, who had valiantly defended himself under the rest of our baleful glances and refused to change into a suit or tux, suddenly realised that perhaps his polo shirt and Rip Curls went against everyone's else's dress code - including mine. I had squeezed myself into a very hot and uncomfortable dress. No one said "told you so" but everyone looked extremely triumphant. All we then had to endure was Matt keeping up a steady stream of grumblings such as "It's one thing to always be right but it's just rude to know it" and other complaints that made little sense.

It didn't take very long for us to realise that there were not many other teenagers in the ballroom rubbing shoulders with people twice our height - people mature enough to have plenty of practice trotting in impossibly high heels. We made our way towards the paintings section. Sometimes you get a sinking feeling that it's just your not crowd that hangs out at Christie's viewings. We came to the joint conclusion that they were all very pretty but it was hard to interpret a canvas covered with squiggles as anything but a canvas covered with squiggles.

Deciding that we had had enough of art, we paid a visit to what mattered to most of us, the jewellery and watches section. Spying a South Sea cultured pearl, sapphire and diamond ring by Anna Hu, Hannah exclaimed that it would go perfectly with the prom dress she bought the other day. This led to her spending half an hour establishing its authenticity and boring an attendant to tears. I must put in a word about how polite the attendants were to a bunch of teenagers who looked far more likely to sit on a masterpiece they assumed was a sofa than to cough up $7,500 (Dh27,546) for a pearl ring, south sea cultured or not.

Meanwhile, a couple of us wandered over to the watches section. While we usually refrain from wearing watches under the vain supposition that they make our wrists look fat, we figured that anything that had a name as impressive as Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Compressor Extreme World Chronograph could only ever provoke admiration. Whenever anyone found a watch they liked, everybody would cluster around and emit squeals of "Ooh, look. It's got that little sun/ moon am/pm thing on it!" or something similar, followed by sheepish smiles directed at the people standing around.

Realising that standing in front of jewellery for too long would only make us want it more, we gradually drifted back to where the paintings hung, and idly roamed around for a few minutes. Why do all great artists have lobster fixations? A piece in the contemporary art section featured a large one sitting on a grey object, which Jess, an art student, thought was very reminiscent of Dali's lobster telephone. I am not sure if it was intentional, but a waiter strayed over just then with breaded shrimp, which everyone eagerly devoured.

When we returned, the mum who was escorting us had compiled a list of things she was interested in, which included a sculpture called Pink Heech. What is a Heech? The list also featured several Untitleds, without the artist's name, so I wish the mum luck in trying to find the right artworks at the auction. In the meantime, I planned to keep thinking of ways to acquire Item 47, a Lady's Ruby Instrumento Grande Automatic Wristwatch by De Grisogono - if I could sneak off with Dad's credit card, that is.