Christie's Dubai's 42 World Records spell an exciting future for Arab art
Once an untapped niche, the region's new and established artists are creating a blockbuster market
There have been plenty of World Record priced sales on the art auction markets recently, but 42 new World Records in one auction is quite something. Even more remarkable is that the sale in question was held in Dubai...
Overall, Christie's auction of Modern and Contemporary Arab, Iranian and Turkish Art last week (April 19) netted AED 29,305,773 ($7,980,875). And, whereas previous UAE auctions saw buyers favour western artworks, each of the 42 new World Record prices was set by a Middle East artist.
Highlighting the sale was a group of six works from the sale's Edge of Arabia section. They sold for AED 3,859,272, or $1,051,000, against a pre-sale estimate of around $135,000. Edge of Arabia was a creative movement established in 2003 to energise young artists of the Islamic world.
Mixing the old with the new: Abdulnasser Gharem's Message/Messenger sculpture from 2010 brought $842,500
Leading the section was a three-metre wide wood and copper dome artwork by the Saudi Arabian artist Abdulnasser Gharem. Although contemporary, dating to 2010, Gharem's work symbolises the Dome of the Rock, the important Islamic shrine located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Gharem's work, entitled Message/Messenger, brought more than ten times its original estimate, eventually selling for AED 3,093,660 ($842,500).
Jewad Salim's Standing Figure (Girl),
Aside from the young artists of the Edge of Arabia movement, modern masters also made an impact at Christie's sale. Among them was Abdul Hadi El-Gazzar (1925-1965), one of Egypt's leading surrealists. His piece Fishing sold for AED 2,741,148 ($746,500, over its $250,000-350,000 estimate).
Elsewhere, another artist who's no stranger to World Record auction success, Jewad Salim, also made an appearance.
An early wood sculpture of a figure by the Iraqi artist (1921-1961), Standing Figure (Girl), brought AED 2,432,700 ($662,500) after attracting much enthusiasm from bidders.
These successes in Dubai bring further validation to Christie's after it became the first international auction house to set up a permanent base in the Middle East in 2006.
Christie's successful inaugural Middle East art auction that year is regarded as a major turning point for Arab art. The sale, showcasing Iranian artists alongside the likes of Picasso and Andy Warhol, drew total sales of $8.5m (AED 31.2 million) and buyers from 17 countries.
Other large auction houses soon followed suit. This includes Bonhams, whose recent seventh auction in the region offering Orientalist art, and its first dedicated photography sale in Dubai, each posted strong results.
Like its inaugural 2006 sale, Christie's 42 World Records in Dubai will surely also be remembered as a landmark for the UAE, as its art world grows from an untapped niche into a prosperous and alluring investment market.
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