How to collect Middle Eastern art Featured

Dubai is a focal destination for investment in contemporary art



09 August 2011

Contemporary art and sculpture in Dubai is enjoying a growth trend. This is an area that combines two factors: collection of pieces for their own sake, and investment. The art object is a trophy in its own right. Selected with utmost care while paying attention to the demands of the market and the aesthetic preferences of the buyer, the chosen piece becomes a quasi-heirloom and a deeply personal object. The rising popularity in Middle East Art has signalled a surge in the number of art galleries in Dubai.

As the city increasingly establishes itself as a hub for art and culture in the region, discerning art collectors from across the globe descend upon the city in search of the latest trend. We spoke with Artspace Director Sossy Dikijian and owner of Green Art Gallery Yasmin Atassi about the psychology behind collecting art.

“If you’re going to buy an art work you have to enjoy it,” says Dikijian. Founded in 2003, Artspace gallery is located in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and represents emerging and established artists from the Middle East. When consulting a potential buyer Dikijian tries to get a feel of the aesthetic tastes of the collector; are they interested in a work with contemporary or modern elements; a piece by a certain artist; or a work made using specific colours, techniques or subject matter? She’ll give a few examples and then discuss the price.

“There’s certainly a diverse range of clientele,” she says. “ Some clients want a piece that reflects their personal tastes while others are interested in “branded” work- the latest trends on the market.” She believes that building a collection off one’s personal style is the best way to go. “You need to believe in the art. Trust it and let it do its part.”

Popular artists represented by Artspace include revered Lebanese painter, sculptor and printmaker Hussein Madi; renowned Egyptian artist Adel El-Siwi and emerging artists such as Lebanese Charbel Samuel Aoun and Moroccan artist Zakaria Ramhani. Middle Eastern art is gaining increasing international exposure,” says Dikijian.

“Just look at the Zoom art fair dedicated to Middle Eastern art which took place in Miami last December or the many international art professionals, curators, and collectors who flocked to Art Dubai this past March. There is an increasing interest in art from the region.”

For Yasmin Atassi, owner of Green Art Gallery, beginning a collection of Middle Eastern Art depends on your budget. “You can either start with collecting established (or as we say "market tested") artists, or invest in younger more emerging artists.” Green Art Gallery represents both emerging and established artists and the gallery’s clients are generally interested in both. Emerging artists include Syrian Jaber Al Azmeh and Lebanese Shawki Youssef. More established or mid- career artists are New York-based Iranian artist Kamrooz Aram and Turkish artists Hale Tenger and Nazif Topcuoglu.

“Whichever option one chooses, the most important aspect is to invest in thorough research. Visit as many galleries and exhibitions as possible, talk to gallery owners and curators, read art magazines and visit art fairs when possible,” advises Atassi. “One must also research the artist's track record and make sure they are represented by a reputable art gallery. Check out which biennials and residencies they have participated in. Find out which museum or private collections include their work. All these aspects are very important when collecting.”

For the discerning collector interested in the investment value of their art work, how does one tell whether an art piece will have value in the longer term? Atassi explains that usually, if you buy works from a reputable gallery or established artists, the value does not decrease; the work will always retain the same price if not increase in value. “Having said that, no one can really promise that an artwork will double in price. However good research and doing your homework will pay off in making sure that you select works and artists who have a solid career and who will continue to do so in the future. For example, in the case of Kamrooz Aram, a few years ago his work sold for $ 6,000- 8,000 whereas now his prices are between $25,000-28,000.”

In the end, the art work you purchase is the art you will have to live with. While it is impossible to deny the power of the market when collecting contemporary and modern art, both Dikijian and Atassi emphasize following your heart when you buy art. This is the true art of collecting. “I come from the school which believes that everyone should buy something they love first and then think about investment value later,” asserts Atassi. “A true collector buys for the love of art and supports artists whom he truly believes in and not just what the market dictates.”

DIFC, Gate Village, Building 3
Tel: +971 323 0820

Green Art Gallery
Al Quoz 1, Street 8, Al Serkal Avenue
T: +971 4346 9305

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