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Under the hammer

Under the hammer

This isn’t the best time in the world to sell art, but if you’re an auction house, the show must go on. Kipp speaks to Matthew Girling, chief executive of Bonhams Dubai, about the art market, and whether the financial crisis has changed the way the auction house does business.


September 27, 2009 2:17 by

Bonhams, a UK-headquartered art auction house, is planning its fourth sale in Dubai on October 12 entitled Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern and South Asian Art. Kipp met up with Matthew Girling, chief executive of Bonhams Dubai, to discuss its expected sales, and how the crisis has affected the auction house.

Kipp: Bonhams’s first Dubai auction brought in $13 million, and its last auction brought in $2.5 million. What’s your expectation on the October sale?

Girling: We’re hoping for somewhere between $1.5 and $2 million.

Kipp: Are you being conservative with that estimate?

Girling: It’s very difficult to know given the current climate. I think that’s a feet-on-the-ground type estimate. I’m not expecting it to soar way beyond that. I’m giving an honest view of where we are.

Kipp: That’s considerably lower than your average Dubai sales. Do you think people aren’t willing to buy art? Or are there not enough buyers in the market?

Girling: Two things: the first is on the supply of things. There’s been a good deal of negative press about the state of the art market, particularly the contemporary art market. We, as an auction house, rely on people wanting to sell and people who want to buy. There is in fact no shortage of buyers of good things.

The problem from the market’s point of view is that unless you really have to sell something, people believe the market is not the strong at the moment, and are unwilling to put their art up for sale. It’s finding good things for sale that is quite difficult at the moment.

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