Though it now only holds one annual auction in the spring during Dubai Art Week, Christie’s Modern & Contemporary Middle Eastern Art Sale was held on 22 March. The sales amounted to $2,973,625, led by a $287,500 sale of Untitled by IraniaSohrab Sepehri and $225,000 for Turkish-Jordanian Fahr El-Nissa Zeid's Portrait of ClareMaria.
Collectors from 22 countries bid on the notably smaller selection of works this year. Bidding was strong in the room, but Christie’s notes that the phone and online bids are increasingly impactful avenues and overall the auction house has seen an increase of 26 per cent since last year. Lots by artists such as Lebanese Paul Guiragossian (Untitled (Standing Figures), $15,000), Iraqi Dia Azzawi (Diary #3, $62,500), Syrian Safwan Dahoul (Dream 26, $100,000), German-Iranian Timo Nasseri (Parsec #11, $43,750), and Egyptian Susan Hefuna (Lams, $18,750) were acquired by individuals from Lebanon, Canada, the UAE and the UK.
In a statement, Michael Jeha, managing director and head of sales at Christie’s Middle East, shared: “Our annual sale in the region is a cornerstone of Dubai Art Week and in our 13th year of sales in the Middle East, we are seeing considerable maturity both in the quality of works offered, especially by the region’s Modern masters, and the discerning tastes of collectors, who appreciate the choice of works available and continue to pursue the most rare and outstanding pieces.”
With the Modern works highlighted as preliminary favourites ahead of the auction by Jeha and Hala Khayat, director and head of sale, both indicated that the marked maturation in both collector tastes and artistic offerings has resulted in a higher demand for Modern art, resulting in increasingly limited availabilities. They also echoed recent conversations that the Middle Eastern art scene has experienced growing international recognition and that education, increased research and validated reference materials will help reinforce this expansion.
The second Modern & Contemporary Middle Eastern Art auction was previously held in October but it has since relocated to London to run in tandem with Frieze Week.