The Top Results in Dubai…

[01 Apr 2016]


In Artprice’s fortnightly series of auction rankings , this week’s Friday Top looks at Dubai’s best art auction results. As Christie’s celebrates its 10th anniversary in the city, Artprice rounds up the top-10 auction results ever hammered in Dubai, a free-zone with lots of extravagant projects, fuelled by a constant inflow of cash.

The Top 10 Results in Dubai…
Rank Artist Hammer Price Artwork Sale
1 Parviz TANAVOLI $2,841,000 The wall (oh, persepolis) (1975) 2008-04-30 Christie’s Dubaï
2 Fahr-el-Nissa ZEID $2,741,000 Break of the Atom and Vegetable Life (1962) 2013-10-29 Christie’s Dubaï
3 Mahmoud SAID $2,546,500 The Whirling Dervishes (1929) 2010-10-26 Christie’s Dubaï
4 Mahmoud SAID $2,434,500 Les Chadoufs (1934) 2010-04-27 Christie’s Dubaï
5 Charles Hossein ZENDEROUDI $1,609,000 Tchaar-bagh (1981) 2008-04-30 Christie’s Dubaï
6 Mohammad EHSAI $1,161,000 He is the merciful (2007) 2008-04-30 Christie’s Dubaï
7 Robert INDIANA $1,161,000 Love (1966-1999) 2008-04-30 Christie’s Dubaï
8 Farhad MOSHIRI $1,089,900 Eshgh (Love) (2007) 2008-03-03 Bonhams Dubaï
9 Parviz TANAVOLI $1,023,800 Construction of the Suez Canal (1965) 2014-03-19 Christie’s Dubaï
10 Abdel Hadi EL-GAZZAR $1,022,500 Poet And Cage (2008) 2010-04-27 Christie’s Dubaï
copyright © 2016


The first observation this ranking elicits is that Dubai’s secondary art market essentially relies on Christie’s, which has generated 9 of the city’s top-10 results. The non-Christie’s result in this ranking bears witness to Bonhams’ attempt to set up a Dubai outlet in 2008. Although Bonhams started with strong sales, fetching $1 million for Eshgh (“Love” in Persian) by the Iranian artists Farhad Moshiri, the market was insufficiently dynamic to sustain Bonhams’ activity in the longer term. Eshgh was acquired by Farhad Farjam, a pharmaceuticals dealer, at a time when works by Farhad Moshiri were selling for between $5,000 and $15,000 in galleries. The bidding went way beyond the already high estimate ($200,000) in a market hungry for strong signals of confidence. As strong results generally breed other strong results, the sudden inflation bolstered confidence and attracted new investors. Unfortunately, the emerging boom of the Middle Eastern art market was undermined by a serious financial crisis (in late-2009 the Dubai government announced its inability to repay debt on schedule). So half of the results in our ranking were generated prior to 2009, with five records dating from 2008 including $2.8 million (April 2008) for a nearly two-metre high bronze stele, The Wall (Oh Persepolis), by the Iranian sculptor ParvizTanavoli, despite his absence from the auction market before 2007. At the sale, the piece was estimated $400,000 to $600,000 …

Christie’s resisted the crisis in Dubai better than Bonhams because it had been there longer (since 2005). Not originally intending to host sales at its Dubai branch, in 2006 Christie’s nevertheless decided to organize a first sale of Contemporary Art focused on Arab and Iranian art in order to meet Iranian collectors’ demand for Iranian works and… Arab collectors’ demand for Arab works. At the time, Christie’s presence on the ME market was reassuring for the city’s rich entrepreneurs who were beginning to acquire an appetite for Contemporary art, and it prompted a number of collectors to “professionalize” their activity. This, in turn, substantially contributed to Dubai’s international profile as a new marketplace for art. Since the first test-sales in 2006-2008, the Dubai marketplace has significantly enhanced its attractiveness to local and international clients and nowadays Christie’s Dubai clients come from 25 different countries. However, Christie’s is not solely responsible for this internationalization; there is also the major art fair Art Dubai – which celebrated its 10th anniversary in March 2016.

The best recent Dubai results are new records for the Turkish artist (and princess) Fahr-el-Nissa Zeid (1901-1991) and the Egyptian artist Abdel Hadi El-Gazzar (1925-1966). Both have recently crossed the million-dollar threshold for the first time: Fahr-el-Nissa Zeid in October 2013, with a huge canvas from 1962 (210 x 540 cm) and Abdel Hadi El-Gazzar in March 2014 with a work entitled Construction of the Suez Canal estimated $100,000. Also sold in London, the top-selling artists on the Dubai market are still generating handsome results…

Dubai is constantly trying to attract cultural investors and one of its initiatives is the development of the Al Quoz art district. Before becoming a “new district for the visual art” in 2007, Al Quoz was Dubai’s industrial zone. However, little by little, its warehouses have been transformed into galleries frequented by wealthy art buyers enjoying generous openings. Increasingly high-end and dynamic, this new art pole is now being consolidated by a number of significant architectural projects as well as exhibitions of established artists and designers. It has also attracted some major foreign dealers, including Stéphane Custot, the high-profile Director of London’s Waddington Custot Gallery. In January, Stéphane Custot opened a new 700 m2 gallery on Al-Serkal Avenue with nine metres of headroom. Attracted by the district’s dynamism, Dubai’s multiculturalism, the major institutional projects currently underway and the colossal exhibition spaces available in the neighborhood, Stephane Custot is now using his Dubai space to present major Western artists like Calder, Miró, Picasso, Soulages and Indiana.