Bloomberg offers an overview of market strength in Dubai which might be premature, especially since a main data point is supposed purchase of The Card Players by the Qatari Royal family.
TEFAF opens at the end of the week but it’s not the only important art fair taking place. In the Gulf States, Dubai continues to use some of the opportunity of the economic downturn—lower rents and the city-state’s role as a shopping mecca for wealthy Indians and Pakistanis—to solidify the city’s art market presence. The Financial Times describes what’s going on in the region:
A repackaged Art Dubai is now the central strand of an ambitious umbrella initiative called Art Week, which encompasses a broad programme of cultural events taking place across the Gulf this month. It ranges from lavish new museum projects in Doha, Qatar, to the fifth annual meeting (March 17-19) organised by the Sharjah Art Foundation, an influential annual gathering of artists, art professionals and institutions. The joined-up marketing strategy makes sense, especially as Qatar is now a powerful force in the contemporary and blue-chip modern art worlds.
Other events point to a fairly robust art ecosystem: Art Week includes Sikka, a fair devoted to new commissions from UAE-based artists (March 15-25 in Al Bastakiya). The management team of Art Dubai, keen to tap into new Middle Eastern tastes for limited-edition furniture, has launched a new fair, Design Days Dubai (see below). Crucially, a commissioned projects programme, on a scale not seen at European art fairs, features more than 40 artists who will cheekily explore “the fabric and economy of an art fair”.
Georgina Adam sums up the actions and ambitions of Qatar in the field of Contemporary Art with a story in the Financial Times. She speculates on the role Qatar Museums Authority (QMA) plays in the international art market as top bidder and also as third-party guarantor. Then there’s the question of the Mathaf, Qatar’s museum of modern Arab art that is hosting a massive Murakami show. But the most import issue seems unresolved, where is Qatar going with all this art buying and exhibition sponsoring?
Mathaf’s director, Wassan Al-Khudhairi, admits that: “We’re sort of learning as we go along, since this is the first modern contemporary art museum in Doha.
“We’re using the first years to try out different types of programming and events that can engage, to see what works and doesn’t work.” Certainly, the Murakami show has been a smash hit, and is packed with visitors.
“Qatar wants to be a cultural hub, and perhaps we should just judge it by what it is doing,” says Dr Venetia Porter, assistant keeper, department of the Middle East, at the British Museum: “It is taking fantastic initiatives in this field.” As for the perceived secrecy about its art purchases, she says: “This is the way in much of the Middle East. You don’t explain, you just wait until you are ready before revealing your hand.”
With every public relations initiative comes a backlash. In this case, the New York Times is now bearing down on Qatar’s efforts to use art as fulcrum for greater stature in the world. The story ultimately validates the success of Qatar’s efforts but also raises questions about the disconnect between the art market and Qatar’s lack of free speech:
There appears to be a high demand for the type of art scene that Qatar is developing. The West is in financial decline and opportunities for artists like those offered in the Gulf are scarce. Arts organizations and artists across the West are struggling because of cuts in arts funding. In this context, Qatar has taken up a key role in shaping the world of art.
Takashi Murakami, the Japanese artist, said in an interview that doing an exhibition in Doha was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to realize a large-scale project that he could not have done anywhere else due to the lack of investment. [Read more...]
Adam Lindemann made a pilgrimage to Qatar to see Takashi Murakami’s Ego show and see what the Qatari Museums Authority is up to. Here’s Lindemann’s take on the Qatari strategy:
The Qatari elite relies on a personal vision, that of the Sheikha (helped by “advisers”), whereas Abu Dhabi’s way relies on institutional credentials (Guggenheim, Louvre) and hired curators vetting and creating the appropriate permanent collection. [...] One Qatari intellectual told me that even if the $1.25 billion his country has spent on art to date is worth only $1 billion, the sum total of its public relations victory far outweighs any speculative gain or loss on the art. “Long term,” he said, “this art is a national asset, it is valuable. We will never lose a penny on it.” The current art market isn’t Qatar and the Sheikha’s concern. They have a greater goal, and it looks like they are well on their way to achieving it.
Sushi in the Desert: Takashi Murakami Brings His Ego to Qatar (Adam Lindemann)
Christie’s $7.3m sale of art in Dubai represented a shift in the auction house’s strategy in developing the market in the Gulf States, according to the Abu Dhabi’s The National:
For the first time in the Middle East, the international auction house split its sale over two nights in Dubai, with the first part for more expensive and renowned artists and the second for rising stars and local talent at lower starting prices. Sales on the second night, Tuesday, reached US$2.3 million (Dh8.4m), beating the pre-sale estimate of $2m, and 39 of the 150 artists whose works were being sold were younger than 35.
Isabelle de La Bruyère, the Middle East director of Christie’s, says the second night was “packed” with young people looking to dip their toes into the world of modern and contemporary Arab, Iranian and Turkish art. ”When I looked around the sales room, it was quite surprising how many young buyers there were or people buying for the first time,” said Ms de La Bruyère. “It was a younger crowd and it was good to see that.”
Five contemporary Emirati artists were being introduced to the international auction market at the second part of the sale, and both saw personal records for their pieces. Fifty-three were sold on the second night with estimates under $10,000. Eighty-three per cent of the pieces on offer were sold, and Turkish artists were completely sold out.
“It really does show you that the end market is going towards contemporary art and the younger generation want to buy art from their generation,” said Ms de La Bruyère.
Art Auction House Enters Youth Period (The National)
Georgina Adam puts the changes in three major auction house’s Dubai strategy into context suggesting that the high hopes of turning Dubai into a fourth major sales center have faded:
After a number of specialists departed – Dalya Islam from Sotheby’s, William Lawrie from Christie’s and Charles Moore from Bonhams – Bonhams is throwing in the towel; it is not planning any more sales in the emirate in the foreseeable future. After a dire sale in April that was about 50 per cent unsold, Bonhams cancelled its September session and is believed to be closing its office: the firm’s press office would say only that it is “maintaining a representative in the region”.
And Christie’s has just announced that it is reworking its October Dubai sale by offering cheaper works to attract a wider range of buyers. Its Part I sale features such boldface names as Farhad Moshiri, Mahmoud Said and Parviz Tanavoli, and carries expectations of $6m for 45 lots. But the Part II sale will offer lower-priced works with estimates starting at $2,000, with 150 lots estimated at $6m. Christie’s man in the Middle East, Michael Jeda, explains that the new formula is intended to “introduce more variety into the sales and encourage a new generation to buy at auction”. Even if these top totals are reached, however, the firm is unlikely to better its performance in 2010, when, thanks to the collection of Saudi connoisseur Mohammed Said Farsi, it achieved a buoyant $29m for the year.
The Art Market: All in a Good Cause (Financial Times)
There are vague news reports from Central Asia and the Gulf States that Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar, has survived an attack by gunmen that left him and eight others wounded:
Emir of Qatar Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani has been attacked on his way to his Palace, Al Fajr newspaper reported.
The gunmen fired at Qatari Emir’s motorcade, which crashed on the way to the Palace where the meeting between Qatari Emir and Russian envoy was to take place.
The incident left Qatari Emir injured, who was taken to hospital with other eight suffered.
Georgina Adam has the details on the buyers in the Emirates:
Bonhams went first with a sale of photography and Orientalist art – with varying results, the photography doing better than the 19th-century paintings; its top lot, Rudolf Ernst’s “After Prayers” made $456,000, just within estimate, but a punishing 60 per cent was left on the block. Christie’s on the other hand celebrated raising almost $8m (the target, before commissions, was $5m-$6m) on Tuesday for its sale of modern and contemporary Arab, Iranian and Turkish art, with some strong prices set for Egyptian and Saudi Arabian artists. The Egyptian Abdul Al-Gazzar scored well with $746,500 for “Fishing” (1957; est. $250,000-$350,000), which was probably bought by the Mathaf museum in Doha; the same paddle number bought another five works. But the lion’s share of the sale seems to have gone to the Dubai-based collector Dr Farhad Farjam, whose adviser dropped a cool $2m, scooping up 18 items, including the top lot, “The Message/Messenger” (2010), a huge wood and copper dome symbolising the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem by the Saudi painter Abdulnasser Gharam, which went for $842,500.
The Art Market: Bad Apples and Big Bucks (Financial Times)