ARTnewsletter Archive

Middle Eastern Buyers Buoy Christie’s Dubai Auction

Christie’s sale of international modern and contemporary art in Dubai on April 29 realized $4.8 million (AED 17.5 million), a steep drop from the $20 million (AED 73.6 million) total achieved last April (ANL, 5/13/08).

NEW YORK—Christie’s sale of international modern and contemporary art in Dubai on April 29 realized $4.8million (AED17.5million), a steep drop from the $20million (AED73.6million) total achieved last April (ANL, 5/13/08).

This spring’s results could not have come as much of a surprise to observers, since Christie’s sale in Dubai last October yielded a total of only $8.7million, well below the estimate of $12million/18million (ANL, 11/11/08).

Still, this spring’s total fell within the estimate of $4.1million/5.9million, and sell-through rates were relatively strong: Of 151 lots offered, 116, or 77 percent, found buyers, and by value the auction was 85 percent sold. Michael Jeha, managing director of Christie’s, Middle East, said the sale “re-energized this market. … Clients continue to be attracted to lots from their own and neighboring countries.”

Works by more than 150 artists, representing the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey, were included in the sale, which brought in buyers from 12 different countries, Christie’s executives said.

Almost three-quarters of the lots that sold went to Middle Eastern buyers, with Europeans accounting for 22 percent and U.S. buyers another 6 percent. The sale was divided into distinct national sections, with one for Iranian art, one for Saudi Arabian and one for Turkish. Saudi artists were included as a grouping for the first time, according to Christie’s spokesperson Emma Cunningham, who noted that “there was considerable ­cross-buying. Collectors buy the work of artists from across the region.”

Works by Iranian artists were in great demand. Iranian sculptor Parviz Tanavoli’s The Wall and the Script, 2007, was the top lot of the sale, bringing $218,500 (AED801,895) from an anonymous buyer, above the estimate of $120,000/180,000. Strong prices were also paid for Charles Hossein Zende­roudi’s painting Wav + Wav + VE, 1970—which sold for $206,500 (AED757,855) against an estimate of $150,000/200,000—and an untitled painting by Sohrab Sepehri from his “Trees” series, which sold for $182,500 (AED669,775) on an estimate of $150,000/200,000.

Seven of the top ten lots were by Iranian artists. An untitled 1994 painting by Mohammed Ehsai sold for $152,500 (AED559,675), well above the estimate of $80,000/120,000, and Abolghassem Saidi’s triptych Trees, 1982, sold for a record $146,500 (AED537,655) against an estimate of $80,000/110,000. Another painting by Ehsai, A Bunch of Daffodils, 2008, sold for $140,500 (AED515,635), within the $120,000/180,000 estimate, and Afshin Pirhashemi’s six-panel painting X Series, 2008, sold for $122,500 (AED449,575), double the $40,000/60,000 estimate.

For only the second time in the three years that Christie’s has held its twice-yearly sales in Dubai, works by Turkish artists were included in the auction. The highlight of the Turkish section was Erol Akyavas’s painting Alma Ausente, 1959, which was sold to a Turkish dealer for $194,500 (AED713,815) on a $70,000/100,000 estimate.

William Lawrie, Christie’s specialist in charge of the sale, said there is still “great appetite from clients all over the world for our sales in Dubai.” He added that the “carefully selected” lots appealed to both new and veteran collectors.