NEW YORK—Christie’s April 19 sale in Dubai featured a mix of modern and contemporary Middle Eastern art that drew new and seasoned buyers alike, realizing a total of $7.98 million for 118 lots offered. Of these, 100, or 85 percent, were sold. By value, the auction realized 87 percent. The total was down considerably from the $15.1 million realized last April but well above the 2009 total of $4.8 million (ANL, 5/4/10).
“We chose to follow a slightly different course in the makeup of this, our tenth sale season, by focusing on stellar contemporary works as much as on the remaining modern masterpieces,” said Michael Jeha, managing director of Christie’s Middle East, adding, “it is clear that this is exactly what collectors are looking for.”
The sale, “Modern and Contemporary Arab, Iranian and Turkish Art,” had as its top lot an installation by Saudi Arabian artist Abdulnasser Gharem, composed of wood and copper and titled The Message/Messenger, 2010. It sold for $842,500, far higher than the estimate of $70,000/100,000. The second-highest price was given for a painting by Egyptian artist Abdul Hadi El-Gazzar, Fishing, 1957, which sold for $746,500, an artist record, on an estimate of $250,000/350,000. Other top lots included Standing Figure (Girl), 1941, a wood sculpture by Iraqi artist Jewad Selim, which sold for $662,500, also an artist record, compared with an estimate of $80,000/120,000.
Works by Iranian artists Mohammed Ehsai and Farhad Moshiri, who have frequently figured in the highest lots at past Middle Eastern art sales, also drew competitive bids. Ehsai’s diptych painting Esgh (‘Love’), 2006, sold for $458,500 (estimate: $180,000/240,000) while two works by Moshiri landed in the top ten, selling above expectations. These included a mixed media on canvas titled 8N619VT, 2005, which sold for $338,500 (estimate: $180,000/240,000), and Choc Line (from the “Sweet Dreams” series), 2008, an installation of 97 small acrylic-paint pastries, sold within expectations, fetching $230,500 (estimate: $200,000/300,000).
A new record for another Iranian artist, Nasrollah Afjehei, was realized when Wave, 2008, an acrylic painting, sold for $218,500 (estimate: $100,000/150,000). Lebanese artist Ayman Baalbaki’s 2011 mixed-media work Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom, sold for $206,500, far higher than the estimated $50,000/70,000.
Said Jeha: “The art market in the Middle East continues to mature and attract an increasingly international and local following.”