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Going, going, gone…

Going, going, gone…

Although many industries in Dubai crumble under the pressure of the global economic slowdown, the art isn’t slowing down.

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November 23, 2008 9:41 by



It’s ironic that during one of the history’s worst recessions an industry that has little to do with basic human needs, art, hasn’t fallen prey to the credit crunch. In fact, some would say it’s booming: galleries have been sprouting across the city, and art auction houses are starting to make Dubai one of their important bases.

Christie’s came to the city in 2005, and has had five auctions since then, the latest being at the end of October this year. Although the two-day auction raked in only $16.9 million, almost $16 million less than the house’s estimate, over 70 percent of the paintings and jewelry pieces on auction were sold, which is encouraging.

Encouraging also for rival auction house Bonhams, which entered the market last year, and is having its second sale on Monday, November 24.

“The wonderful thing about having an auction here is the number of people who attend the event,” says Matthew Girling, the CEO of Bonhams for UK and Europe. “There is still here a novelty to the whole thing, an auction is still seen as an event; and when we do them in glamorous places like hotels, people come here, have a nice dinner, and then walk into the auction. It’s an interesting leisure activity, and you don’t need an invitation to come; it’s welcome to everybody.”

Girling is also confident that they will find a home for most of the art works.
“I think there is a willingness for the art market to be a success here. I think its not like Europe. Within the business community here they want Dubai to be a success and supporting what we are doing is important to them,” he adds.

But the auction house is advising its sellers not to keep their expectations too high this time. “Art doesn’t operate in a bubble isolated from what goes on in the financial world, and without a doubt, the art market will be affected by the current financial situation. What I think also is that expectation levels have been set too high here,” says Girling.

However, in spite of the economic slowdown and sellers’ high expectations (which aren’t always met), auction houses are planning to expand further: Bonhams is planning to have three sales next year.

“There is potential for an awful lot more to go on here, I mean the auctions have come here and we have sold what we could easily predict would be well received. You go for the kind of easy kills. But I think because of the diaspora here and because of the lots of young people who live here, who might have been educated abroad and are exposed to all sorts of different types of things, there is a lot of scope for the auction business in Dubai,” says Girling.



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