Auction house Christie’s, which marks its 10th anniversary and 20th sale season in Dubai this week, has sold over $300 million worth of art, jewellery and watches in the last 10 years, according to a top company executive.
Christie’s, based in London, held its first art auction in the Middle East in May 2006, selling $8.5 million worth of art. A painting by Iraqi artist Shakir Hassan Al Saeed, ‘The Peasant’, was sold for just over $30,000, three times its estimate of $10,000.
Back then, there were a few art galleries in Dubai. Today, the emirate hosts major art-related events and is home to a growing number of galleries, such as The Third Line, Majlis Gallery, Art Space and Andakulova Gallery.
“The demand for Middle Eastern art remains very strong. The market is maturing … we’re seeing more international participation in the Middle Eastern art market,” said Michael Jeha, Managing Director of Christie’s in Dubai.
Luxury jewellery and watches are in strong demand in the Middle East, which is why Christie’s has added a new sale category featuring such items, alongside its art and watches sales.
Opening on Thursday, Element of Style will feature 125 items worth $1.5 million-$2.5 million. These include 60 luxury handbags from global brands like Chanel and Hermes, men’s and women’s watches, fountain pens from Montblanc and luggage from Louis Vuitton.
“There are many clients from around the region who love jewellery, watches and handbags. So we think it’s going to appeal to a large audience here,” he said.
“I hope that even in challenging times the calibre of what we are offering is so high that there would be enough people that would come out and support such objects,” he added.
On Wednesday, the Modern and Contemporary Art auction opens, featuring 120 lots ranging from $8.5 million to $11 million. The top lot is an 11-meter long triptych (an artwork that is divided into three panels), entitled Sarajevo, by Egyptian artist Omar Al Nagdi, with an estimated value of between $400,000 and $600,000.
“It outlines a time during the Serbian-Bosnian crisis in the 90s when millions of Muslims were massacred. The artist is Muslim so he felt an affinity towards the Bosnians and wanted to create a painting to describe loss and death,” said Masa Al-Kutoubi, specialist of modern and contemporary art at Christie’s.
Other artworks that will go under the hammer include Mahmoud Saeed’s Le Nil a El Derr ($250,000-$350,000) and Louay Kayali’s Al Shakikatan ($100,000-$150,000).
On Tuesday, Christie’s will showcase 175 pieces in the Important Watches sale, worth $2.3 million-$3.5 million. These include an 18 carat pink gold rectangular Patek Philippe wristwatch, with an estimated value of between $130,000 and $230,000, and an 18 carat white gold wristwatch from Roger Dubuis, worth $120,000-$150,000.
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