Sotheby’s announced Tuesday that it has appointed Daniel Asmar as its new managing director for the the Middle East and North Africa, the latest move in the auction’s bid to expand its foothold in the region.
Asmar joins the auction house from the financial sector. He will continue to be based in Dubai and assumes his new role on April 4.
He previously served as director, cluster head of Saudi Arabia for Credit Suisse AG, based in Dubai. In his new role, he will work alongside Katia Nounou Boueiz, the senior director and head of Sotheby’s UAE, and Mai Eldib, who was recently appointed as the house’s head of sales in the Middle East after 14 years with the company.
Sotheby’s first opened its Dubai office, located in the city’s International Financial Centre, in 2017.
“In the past five years, since we officially opened our office in Dubai– we have made a concerted effort to ramp up our activities, not just in Dubai, but across the UAE,” Sebastian Fahey, the managing director of Sotheby’s EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa), told ARTnews.
Fahey said the house is focused on the long-term strategy for the region as local government’s further tap the cultural sector as a source of economic growth.
Most recently, Sotheby’s partnered with the Visual Arts Commission of the Ministry of Culture and the Diriyah Biennale Foundation to put on a digital art forum in Riyadh. “Given the region’s tech-savvy population, we are certainly planning more in this sphere,” added Fahey.
The news comes on the heels of staff shifts among auction executives in the Middle East hub.
Earlier this month, Michael Jeha, the chairman of Christie’s Middle East office, departed from his position at the Dubai headquarters, after two decades with the company. Jeha’s exit prompted a reshuffle internally, with Christie’s longtime European managing director, Dirk Boll, moving into a newly created role overseeing Christie’s EMEA 20th and 21st century art departments as deputy chairman.
As the house looks for another Middle East chairman, a Christie’s spokesperson told ARTnews, the company, “will stay committed to the region.”
As the region’s contemporary art scene remains in its nascent phase, luxury and private sales are key to auction house business-getters, looking to tap a base of high net-worth clients through an expanding network of cultural initiatives in the area.
Last April, the city’s government authorities in charge of overseeing culture launched the Dubai Creative Economy Strategy, a plan to double the number of businesses operating in the emirate’s $10.7 billion creative sector by 2025. As part of the policy-framework, the Dubai government is also building a national art collection by sourcing loans from private collectors.
“There is so much opportunity to continue to tap into across the region,” Asmar said in a statement.