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Sotheby’s eyes increased sales from Mena region

Auctioneer saw 10% year-on-year increase in Mena clients over past 5 years

Image Credit: Courtesy: Sotheby’s
Edward Gibbs
Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Sotheby’s, the British auctioneer, is targeting increased revenues from the Middle East and North Africa (Mena), and specifically from the UAE, in the next few years, having already seen “significant growth” in demand from the region.

Spurred by the increase in both value and volume of transactions from the region, Sotheby’s plans to expand its footprint by opening an office in Dubai in the next few weeks.

Sotheby’s currently has regional offices in Istanbul and Doha, as well as an office in Cairo.

“We would be looking for a similar growth pattern to the one we’ve seen. In the past five years, we’ve seen a 10 per cent year-on-year increase in the number of Mena clients and a similar incremental increase in their spending. With UAE, the figures are even more encouraging than that,” said Edward Gibbs, Sotheby’s Middle East and India chairman.

In the UAE alone, the number of clients has doubled over the past five years, while the value of transactions from the country has tripled in that period, Gibbs said, amid growing interest in art and memorabilia.

“We certainly have projected [sales] targets. We plan for a certain volume of sales, and what we see is there’s a significant growth even on the planning, so realised sales would be in excess of what we’ve projected for the season, and that’s why we elected to enhance our presence here and to expand our footprint on the ground because there’s definite clear signs of very significant growth,” he said.

The company was also encouraged by the increased vibrancy of the UAE’s art market and an increase in the number of art collectors based in the country.

The office in Dubai will exhibit art work and highlights from Sotheby’s global sales, and will hold educational talks and lectures. It will also hold private sales to certain clientele, while auctions will be launched “in due course,” Gibbs said.

For customers based in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena), most demand goes to jewellery and watches, as well as contemporary and Islamic art from regional artists.

“In London, we’ve had two seasons of sales of Islamic, and modern and contemporary Middle Eastern art in April and October, and those have realised £30 million (Dh137 million) of sales. Mena clients, and specifically UAE clients, have been major contributors, particularly as buyers, but also as sellers to these categories,” the chairman said.

In terms of sales for the year, the biggest sensation was an auction of a collection owned by David Bowie, the British music icon who passed away in January. That collection, which Bowie had kept quite discreet, realised around £32 million in revenues, with the pre-sales estimate at £10 million.

For Sotheby’s, the next area of growth is expected to come from online sales and online bidding. Gibbs said there has been an increase of over 30 per cent in online sales this year alone. The auctioneer is also currently rolling out a programme of online-only sales.

“Online sales are the present and the future, but I think the physical platform will always remain because it’s the element of theatre and drama at an auction,” he said.