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SHIFTING GEARS? Why Dubai’s “booming” art market needs to change its strategy

art dubai

Dubai has discovered there really are some things money can't buy.


June 14, 2012 5:35 by

After a decade of petrodollar-driven success that has established it rapidly as a regional financial, trade, tourism and retail centre, the emirate has hit a speed bump in an unexpected arena – art.


Burgeoning enthusiasm for collecting art convinced many that Dubai was about to become an overnight sensation in the international market, putting a gloss of sophistication on the cultural life of the emirate.


But becoming a true global art centre, one that would potentially alter the cultural fabric of the entire Middle East, is a bit more complicated – and time-consuming.


“There are many wealthy people in Dubai and certainly there is a rise in the disposable income, but that doesn’t suddenly make Dubai the hub of the regional art market,” said Matthew Girling, chief executive for UK and Europe at Bonhams, one of the world’s biggest fine art auction houses.


“There is a network of people around you in places like London or New York – museums, galleries, dealers. This is what helps you weather a downturn. All that is very much in its infancy in Dubai,” Girling said.


Such a wide and deep network can only emerge over time, experts said, and no amount of wealth can rush the maturing process.


Words like ‘booming’ and ‘blossoming’ were used to describe Dubai’s nascent contemporary art market five years ago as auctions racked up one record-setting sale after the other.


But then the global financial crisis hit in 2008, and the revenues of both Christie’s and Bonhams took sharp dives, eventually prompting Bonhams to halt auctions in the city.

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