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Culture

Christie’s auction sets 29 world records for Mideast art

  • The auctions’ top lot: Mahmoud Saïd’s “Pêcheurs à Rosette” (1941), oil-on-panel, sold for $818,500.

  • Mohammed El-Rawas “An Outing on Wheels” (2009), mixed media-on-plywood panel, went for $62,500. All photos courtesy of Christie's

DUBAI: Christie’s auction house in Dubai concluded its 13th sales season late Wednesday, with its auction of modern and contemporary Arab, Iranian and Turkish art raking in a combined total of $5,900,350 and establishing 29 new world auction records for Middle Eastern artists.

Wednesday evening’s sale featured works by 16 artists who had never before been represented at auction. All sold within or above their high estimate, with $2,260,250 exchanging hands.

The top lot of the evening was “The strange Lady Arlette Anhoury” (1962), by Syrian artist Louay Kayyali (1934-1978), which sold for $170,500 after what observers depicted to be “a fierce bidding battle between room and telephone.”

Christie’s in the Middle East supports a number of charities, raising a combined total of $20 million by offering art works at auction. Wednesday evening raised an additional $370,000 to support two charities: the Caspian Art Foundation, which aims to help young students from the region to complete their postgraduate studies at the University of the Arts London; and The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts which was founded in 2004 by HRH The Prince of Wales, and which teaches the practical skills of the traditional arts.

Two works offered from the private collection of Robert Douaihy to fund the building of the Saliba Douaihy’s gravestone in Ehden, Lebanon, raised $106,000 against a low pre-sale estimate of $40,000.

“The October 2012 sales season has demonstrated again the depth of this market and the continuously growing interest in the arts,” commented Middle Eastern art specialist Hala Khayat.

“With 41 young artists represented for the first time at auction in 2012, and with most of them being sought after in the auction room, we continue to lead in the region by offering the most exciting sales platform with the best international reach.”

Wednesday’s sale was the second part of the event and Christie’s spokespersons described the auction rooms as being “busy and animated” on both nights.

At 29-lots strong, the first part of the sale Tuesday evening brought in $3,640,100, with 96 percent of goods sold. Bidders from 13 countries participated either in person, by phone or online via Christie’sLive.

The works on sale Tuesday represented eight different Middle East states and new records were set for five artists – Gazbia Sirry, Hayv Kahraman, Ramazan Bayrakoglu, Shirazeh Houshiary and Timo Nasseri with 50 percent of lots sold above their high estimate. The low estimate for this first part of the two-part sale was $2.6 million.

Christie’s reported a 20-percent increase in the number of registrants from the region over three days of viewing and bidding, reflecting, the auctioneer suggested, a constant growth of interest in the arts.

The top lot of the sale was “Pêcheurs à Rosette” (1941) by Egypt’s Mahmoud Saïd, which (with an estimated worth of $400,000-600,000) sold for $818,500. Auction house representatives described “Pêcheurs à Rosette” as “one of the artist’s most comprehensive works, showing a richly detailed Egyptian scene beside the Nile with fishermen unloading their catch, a perfect expression of national Egyptian identity.”

“We are delighted by the strong results that were witnessed in the saleroom today and the market reacted extremely positively to the masters of Middle Eastern art and attracted a lot of interest, which resulted in 50 percent of the lots selling above high estimate,” remarked Michael Jeha, managing director of Christie’s Middle East.

“Dubai has been very busy over the last weeks from the buzz which began at Art Night held at the DIFC last week, to the numerous gallery openings and all of these events have culminated in a highly successful sale tonight. It was also encouraging to see interest from international and national buyers evenly balanced.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 26, 2012, on page 16.

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