Abu Dhabi: While there is a high level of interest for all things art in the capital, there are still not enough avenues for residents to showcase their works or to discover artists from the communities here, a senior representative from Bonhams auction house told Gulf News in an exclusive interview.

Mathew Girling, CEO, UK and Europe, Bonhams, said: "There are a lot of things missing in the art scene here [Abu Dhabi]. There aren't enough galleries or museums other than the art palaces, such as those being constructed on Saadiyat.

"Galleries don't have to be on the scale of the Guggenheim and also, while there are many great exhibitions happening at the Emirates Palace Hotel, the location itself might be intimidating for some people."

He was speaking on the sidelines of Bonhams' first ever pre-auction viewing in Abu Dhabi on May 10 at the Beach Rotana Hotel. The items were auctioned in Dubai on May 13.

"This is the first time that we did a pre-sale showcase in Abu Dhabi of what we are auctioning in Dubai, although that is something that we do regularly ahead of all our auctions to date," Girling said.

"This is the third year that we have been in operation [in Dubai] and we decided to showcase our pieces here as a way to reach a wider audience in Abu Dhabi," he added.

On setting up a branch in Dubai, Girling said that "our aim in opening a branch in the UAE is to reach out to new collectors to buy art and to continue buying art to form collections … despite the economic difficulties of the past year; it doesn't mean that people have left the region.

"Many have put roots in the countries they work in, and these roots have become firmly embedded over time."

The UK and Europe CEO is optimistic about the future of art in the UAE. "In five or ten years, I hope that there will be a thriving art gallery scene with museums that are built at the national level, where next to the gleaming towers in the city there are smaller dealers and galleries."

Profile: Renowned auctioneer

Founded in 1793, Bonhams is a privately owned British auction house and one of the world's oldest and largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The name is recognised worldwide throughout all sectors of the fine art, antiques and collectors' market, with several of its departments established world leaders within their specialist category.

In 2007, Bonhams opened an office in Dubai as part of a joint venture with the family of former ambassador to the UK Mohammad Madhi Al Tajir. The first sale held in Dubai on March 3, 2008, was of modern and contemporary Arab, Iranian, Indian and Pakistani art. It achieved sales of over $13 million.

To find out more about Bonhams, visit www.bonhams.com.