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    Dubai Art Sale Totals $16.9 Million, Half Christie's Estimate

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    Dubai Art Sale Totals $16.9 Million, Half Christie's Estimate

    Post by sang_garuda on Fri Oct 31, 2008 7:00 pm

    Christie's International sold $16.9 million of paintings and jewels in a two-day sale in Dubai, below estimates, as falling oil and equity prices dented the boom in Middle East art.

    The highlight, a trio of vast calligraphy works called ``Triptych (La Passion avec croix, ame et bagages, and triangle bigames)'' by Algerian artist Rachid Koraichi sold for $482,500, compared with a $400,000-$600,000 estimate. The auction house had estimated the sale of jewelry on Oct. 29 and modern art yesterday would together tally $32 million to $43 million.

    ``It's a bargain for the buyers,'' said Tariq al-Jaidah, a collector from Qatar, at yesterday's art auction. He spent more than $300,000 on three works including $170,500 on an untitled piece by Lebanese artist Nabil Nahas that was estimated to be worth $150,000 to $200,000.

    Record fuel prices encouraged Christie's and rival Bonhams to begin auctions in the oil-rich Middle East two years ago. Since oil prices peaked on July 11 at $147.27 a barrel, the commodity has dropped 55 percent as a banking crisis dried up credit, driving economies toward recession.

    Christie's sold 70 percent of the lots offered yesterday, compared to 84 percent at its first sale of the year in April. The auction house said it didn't provide price guarantees to the sellers.

    Parvis Tanavoli, whose sculpture ``The Wall (Oh Persepolis)'' sold for a record $2.84 million in April, offered a 3 meter-tall bronze sculpture, ``Poet in Love,'' that fetched $242,500, against a low estimate of $400,000. Mohammed Ehsai's ``Loving Whisper,'' depicting ribbons of red calligraphy on a black background, sold for $482,500 against an estimate of $300,000-$500,000. Sale prices include buyer's premium.

    Lowered Estimates

    ``This is our best collection of Arab and Iranian art ever,'' said Michael Jeha, Managing Director of Christie's Middle East, in an Oct. 28 interview in Dubai. ``The jewelry team lowered its estimates slightly, but for picture sales we left estimates as they are because paintings over time retain their value.''

    London-based Christie's has held two sales of jewelry and art a year in Dubai since 2006. Dubai's first auction of this year raised $40 million, the same as its total sales in 2007.

    ``The sale has done well considering it is during a financial crisis,'' said Edward el-Shaer, a Syrian art collector. ``In other places, works haven't even sold.''

    Hong Kong and the Middle East are Christie's biggest growth markets, Christie's Jeha said. The company's major rival, Sotheby's, missed the estimate for its Hong Kong sale in October with a tally of HK$1.1 billion ($141.9 million) as buyers shunned some of the top lots in Chinese art. Sotheby's had estimated the 1,700 items offered would fetch HK$2 billion.

    Other emerging art markets have also suffered from the financial slump. On Oct. 20, a Sotheby's auction of Aboriginal artifacts and paintings in Australia fetched A$3.7 million ($2.6 million), less than half the A$7.6 million low estimate as a majority of lots failed to find buyers.

    ``There is no doubt we are in the middle of a financial crisis,'' Jeha said. ``It is still a very liquid market.''


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