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Collected splendour

Christie's ninth sale season offers works by Middle Eastern artists, reflecting the region's growing importance as an art destination

'Premieres Gestes'
Image Credit: Supplied
A work by Lebanese artist Chafic Abboud 'Premieres Gestes' (1998)
Weekend Review

On view at Christie's ninth sale season in Dubai will be more than 190 works of art from the most renowned Middle Eastern artists such as Paul Guiragossian, Parviz Tanavoli, Fahrad Moshiri, Charles Hussain Zenderoudi, Ali Omar Ermes, Mohammad Ehsai and Fateh Moudarres.

"Since Christie's inaugural auction in Dubai in 2006, the awareness and appetite for art in general and for Middle Eastern Art in Dubai has increased significantly," Michael Jeha, managing director of Christie's Middle East, told Weekend Review. "Christie's has now sold over $165 million worth of art since 2006 and sold over 1,000 works by Middle Eastern artists, so the demand is increasing at a rapid rate.

"This phenomenon can further be illustrated by the growing number of galleries in the region which is over 60 in the UAE, art fairs in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Lebanon; and new museum projects in Abu Dhabi and Doha.

"Today, Dubai and the region are becoming important art destinations, visited by the art scene from around the world. The Guggenheim and Louvre, two of the most outstanding museums, are investing now in the region, many art fair and galleries have opened and a general artistic buzz can be felt in the region. And the art market in the Middle East is still young and needs more time to fully develop, but Christie's is very excited by the pace of development in the art market in the region."

Christie's will exhibit its collection at the Emirates Towers Hotel, starting with a public viewing from October 24 at 2pm, to October 26, till 1pm.

This preview will be followed by two sale nights, the first one, Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern art, on October 26 at 6.30pm. The season closes with the Jewellery and Watches sale on Wednesday, October 27 at 7pm.

"On the jewellery side we will bring to Dubai 40 parures and another 72 exquisite jewellery pieces from modern designers to Art Deco pieces and 42 highly sought-after watches from the best makers, such as Lange&Söhne, Patek Philippe and Cartier," Jeha said.

In relation to the participation in Dubai sales, he said: "We are already seeing an increasing international participation in our Dubai sales, with approximately 30 per cent of the works of art being bought by international collectors outside the Middle East.

"This shows that the demand for Middle Eastern art is spreading globally and the depths of collectors are increasing. We would like to see this number developing from 30 per cent to 50 per cent by growing the international interest and appreciation of Middle Eastern art throughout the world.

"Christie's was the first international auction house to invest in the region and see the artistic potential by giving young artists an international platform to exhibit and trade their works of art."

How does Christie's evaluate the feedback of people from this region towards artworks?

"Well, contemporary Middle Eastern art is very close to people's hearts and many interested people are in contact with us throughout the year to obtain advice, asking questions about restoration practice or storage-related knowledge.

"We see many people coming through the door to obtain a Christie's sale catalogue, one of the best tools to learn about the artists, the works and how we evaluate a work of art and to be able to trace the artist development in the market."

Asked what the sales aim to achieve, he said: "The aim is to attract as many people as possible to our public viewing and enjoy the works of art, try on the jewellery, talk to our specialists and obtain their advice. The sales will surely attract many international collectors and help to consolidate the importance of Middle Eastern art and to find entrance to many new collections."

Speaking of jewellery, what is scheduled to be displayed in the four exhibitions?

"We are very excited to offer the most important parure collection in private hands ever to come to the auction market. Forty-one beautiful diamond, emerald, ruby and sapphire parures will transform Christie's exhibition in a dazzling showroom, with a total of 2,180 carats of rubies, 1,970 carats of emeralds, 1,630 carats of sapphires and 6,460 carats of diamonds.

"All parures are signed by Chatila, Jahan and Mouawad. Each lot consists of earrings, a ring, matching necklace and bracelet, and will be accompanied by a certificate from its maker. Estimates range from $40,000 to $400,000 and all lots will be offered without reserve.

"A magnificent million-dollar natural pearl and diamond suite of jewellery made by Bogh-Art, the Geneva-based contemporary jeweller, leads Christie's October 27 Jewels and Watches sale in Dubai (estimated at $1 million to $1.2 million (Dh3.7 million to Dh4.4 million). A fancy, vivid yellow diamond ring, with a magnificent pavé-set yellow diamond gallery mounting, boasts the largest stone in the sale, weighing 13.29 carats, (estimated at $280,000 to $350,000 (Dh1.1 million to Dh1.3 million)," Jeha said.

Asked what important art collections they would showcase during this four-day exhibition, he said: "After the spectacular success last April when Christie's sold 25 works of art from the renowned collection of Dr Mohammad Said Farsi for a total of $8.7 million, tripling its pre-sale estimate, Dr Farsi has decided to part with a further 30 masterpieces from his collection at the upcoming auction of International Modern and Contemporary Art on October 26, 2010, in Dubai.

"Dr Farsi's private collection is recognised as the most comprehensive group of modern Egyptian art in private hands. Prompted by his experience as a student in Alexandria, Dr Farsi became the driving force in the Egyptian art scene and his collection became the first of its kind to be fully documented with the publication of A Museum in a Book: The Farsi Art Collection — the ‘Egyptian Works' owned by Dr Mohammad Said Farsi by the critic and scholar Dr Sobhy Sharouny [published 1998].

The group of 30 works to be offered at Christie's in Dubai includes paintings representing many of Egypt's most famous 20th century artists such as Mahmoud Said, Ragheb Ayad, Abul Hadi Al Gazzar, Hamed Nada, Seif and Adham Wanly and Adam Henein, for which new world auction records have been established this year in Dubai."

The Whirling Dervishes (1929), a spectacular early work, estimated at $300,000 to $400,000, by Egyptian artist Mahmoud Said (1897-1964), is the leading highlight in this collection. Jeha said: "Born to an aristocratic Alexandrian family, the son of Egypt's prime minister and uncle to Queen Farida, Mahmoud Said trained as a lawyer, working reluctantly in that profession before devoting himself fully to his art in 1947.

The painting depicts six Mowlavi dervishes, each identically clad and with similar features but subtly different postures, performing a Sema dance around the circular stage of an Ottoman-era Semahane (ritual hall)."

Christie's is also involved in many educational seminars. "Every sale season we welcome students from different institutions for an educational tour, given by our experts," Jeha said

About this agenda to promote education that Christie's Middle East is committed to, Jeha said: "In the past we've done many educational projects in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

"We extended our education outreach to Doha recently. We are taking every opportunity to link visits by our international specialists with educational projects such as lectures and tours. We are also in the process of providing a cultural exchange programme between collectors from different regions. And each of our previews is visited by several student groups. They will receive an in-depth guided tour by our specialists."

Being a person in the know, how does he see the art scene in Dubai ten years from now? "Well, Dubai and the entire Middle Eastern region is undoubtedly experiencing a new era vis-à-vis art and culture. There are important museums opening up in the region, great art fairs, museum-quality exhibitions, talks and seminars that are being organised.

"Each event is a small step towards a larger regional goal but the artistic landscape is certainly changing and Christie's is going hand in hand with the growth of Dubai as a commercial hub in the Middle East," Jeha said.

 Christie's exhibition is on at the Emirates Towers Hotel, Dubai, from October 24 to October 27.

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