While confidence may be low, the Middle East art market continues to fizz expectantly on the surprise success of leading auction houses Christie’s and Bonhams. While both raised less than the previous year in their autumn contemporary sales, they both made their minimum estimates. Christie’s even broke an auction world record, selling Ahmed Moustafa’s Remembrance and Gratitude for US$662,500, the highest price ever fetched by auction for a modern work by an Arab artist.
Tenuous accolades aside, it refutes the claim that Middle East art prices are being dragged down by the general slump in demand for contemporary art. Bonhams, sold an impressive 70 per cent of its lots that included a spattering of South Asian Art, with the majority of buyers hailing from the Middle East.
Mathew Girling, Chief Executive of Bonhams, said, “I am very encouraged by the turnout at the sale which indicated return in confidence in the art market here in Dubai. The region has seemingly weathered the downturn in the economic market and collectors were notably enthusiastic to bid for the works of art we had on offer. I am optimistic that in 2010, we shall see the Dubai art market firmly back on the road to recovery.”
Christie’s meanwhile, drew even bigger crowds at their legendary Watch and Jewellery Sale, which saw a pair of Asscher-cut diamond ear pendants weighing an impressive 15 carats each, sell for over half a million dollars.
“Christie’s auctions in Dubai are the international benchmark for the Middle Eastern art market,” explained Michael Jeha, Managing Director of Christie’s Middle East. “Despite the global economic troubles of the last year, the appetite for art in the Middle East continues to grow, as does the international appreciation for Middle Eastern art.”
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