Lebanese and Egyptian art flies out the door at Christie’s Dubai

Chairman of Christie’s auction house, Viscount Linley, explains why there has been a ‘controlled explosion’ of art in the emirate

Christie’s Dubai last week welcomed more than 500 art collectors and enthusiasts to its 18th consecutive sale season to be held in the region. A total of 158 works were offered and sales reached $11,397,750, a rise of 7 per cent on last year’s March sale total. The sale attracted registrants from 25 countries, with 25 buyers joining via Christie’s online bidding platform.

The event took place during Art Dubai, the leading international art fair in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia, which celebrated its ninth incarnation this year. Likewise Christie’s celebrates the ninth anniversary of its Dubai operations in 2015. And according to the London-based auction house’s chairman Viscount Linley, the emirate’s art community has benefitted hugely from the annual fair and associated events.

Viscount Linley
Viscount Linley asserts that events such as Art Dubai and Design Days Dubai are are key in encouraging the next generation of collectors

“The art scene in Dubai has witnessed a controlled explosion,” Linley told Vision on the eve of the sale. “It has changed in the years I’ve been coming here, there is a dynamism and now it is a truly international location.

“Yesterday I was at [collectible furniture fair] Design Days Dubai, which was very interesting for me as a furniture maker,” continued Linley, who founded his own bespoke furniture business in 1985. “We went to the Hamdan International Photography Award the first night we were here to see how that’s generated interest, and then we walked back through the Dubai International Financial Centre. When you see the number of galleries there, when you see that art has become such a central part of society, it’s a very uplifting experience."

“Events are key to encouraging a whole region in the collecting sphere, and here you’re seeing more and more people start and edit collections,” he added. “You’re seeing their tastes change and it’s a very exciting opportunity for us to be able to see these collectors who collect over many years, and the different kinds of pieces they collect.”

Christie's in Dubai
Christie's in Dubai in a flurry of bids. The sale room recently saw the Mokbel Art Collection, one of the most esteemed private collections for Lebanese art, doubling its pre-sale estimate

At the sale, of modern and contemporary Arab, Iranian and Turkish art, the Mokbel Art Collection of Lebanese Art more than doubled its pre-sale estimate of $750,000, making $1.6m. The top lot from this collection was Ayman Baalbaki’s ‘Babel’, painted in 2005, which set a new world auction record for the artist when it sold for $485,000. The top lot of the entire sale was ‘Farhat Al Nuba’ (‘The Happiness of Nubia’) by the late Egyptian artist Tahia Halim, which sold to an anonymous telephone bidder for $749,000 – a new world record for the artist.

“Christie’s has been very dedicated to showing universal support across the region for the artists and for the art,” said Linley. “Now we’re seeing more than ever collectors bringing their works with the confidence and knowledge that Christie’s is going to promote and look after their works in the marketplace. There is confidence that Christie’s is the right place to sell things.”