NEW YORK—Christie’s second sale of international modern and contemporary art in Dubai exceeded the house’s expectations, grossing $9.4 million. Of 190 lots offered, 175, or 92 percent, were sold. By value the auction was 86 percent sold.
Works by Indian artists dominated the high end, bringing strong six-figure prices. Christie’s said 51 artists’ records were realized and noted buyers from 19 countries on hand in the packed saleroom.
Auction houses, major museums and art dealers see the Middle East as the next big growth area of the art market, as increasing ranks of wealthy buyers embrace both traditional Islamic art and antiquities, as well as modern art from the U.S., China, India, southeast Asia and other neighboring countries. Christie’s officials expect Dubai to become as important a collecting center for the Middle East as Hong Kong is for Asia. Christie’s opened the Dubai branch, its first in the Middle East, in April 2005.
In an effort to strengthen its presence in the region, Sotheby’s announced several initiatives in early February, including a reception at the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi. The event was hosted by His Excellency Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al-Nahyan, chairman of the Abu Dhabi culture and heritage authority and chairman of the Abu Dhabi tourism authority. Sotheby’s also says it plans to host a week of cultural activities, including exhibitions, charity auctions, and educational programs this fall; the house will also sponsor a prize for young Arab artists.
Last November, Sotheby’s appointed Roxane Zand as director, Sotheby’s Middle East and Gulf region. Sotheby’s said Zand will be responsible for “implementing a strategic plan for the region, a key area for growth in Sotheby’s future global business.”
Said Henry Wyndham, chairman of Sotheby’s Europe: “The Middle East is fast becoming a pivotal hub between the East and the West, and globalization will only reinforce its position as a strategic center. The Gulf is an enormously important area for Sotheby’s business.”
Meanwhile, officials in Abu Dhabi recently announced an ambitious, multibillion-dollar plan for a cultural complex, including a performing arts center and several museums, on the island of Saadiyat (which means “Island of Happiness”), offshore Abu Dhabi. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, headed by director Thomas R. Krens, has played a key role in advising cultural authorities in Abu Dhabi about the development of the plan.
Asked about the base of art buyers in Abu Dhabi and nearby regions, Bassem Terkawi, public relations and events manager of the Saadiyat project, told ARTnewsletter that there is a thriving group, adding that “collectors are of various nationalities and cultures, reflecting the cosmopolitan population of the United Arab Emirates. The type of art collected is equally diverse from contemporary to Islamic art.”
The top lot of Christie’s recent sale was Untitled (Woman and Horses), 2002, by Maqbool Fida Husain (b. 1915), which scored $441,600 (estimate: $200,000/250,000) from a private buyer. Untitled, a 1968 oil on canvas by Ram Kumar (b. 1924), was sold for $329,600 (estimate: $300,000/500,000).
One of the few Western artists to appear in the top lots was American painter Sam Francis (1923-94), whose Untitled (SFP83-173), 1983, fetched $419,200 (estimate: $400,000/600,000) from a private Indian collector; and a work by Andy Warhol (1928-87), Dollar Sign, 1981, brought $216,000 (estimate: $60,000/80,000).
Two paintings by Syed Haider Raza (b. 1922)also figured among the highest-priced lots: Rajput House, 1965-66, which made $307,200 (estimate: $120,000/180,000), was won by an Indian collector; and Lumiére d’été, 1958, fell for $204,000 to an Indian dealer. An artist’s record was set for Abdul Kadir Al-Raes (b. 1951), from the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, when Yesteryear, 1995, soared past the $40,000/60,000 estimate to realize $262,400.