Christie's gets edgy with Dubai sale

Christie's is tweaking its auction process in Dubai to attract a wider audience of art lovers

A woman passes in front of an artwork by the Turkish artist Ferhat Deniz during a Christie's exhibition in Dubai in April.
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Christie's is broadening the scope of its auction sales in Dubai as it aims to attract a wider audience of art lovers.

The international auction house is to introduce a new format this autumn, offering works at lower estimates to attract a younger, less wealthy crowd.

"This will engage more UAE nationals into collecting art and investing in their own artists," said Hala Khayat, a specialist at Christie's. "There's things going on with the younger generation artists that were not there 10 years ago."

The move is also designed to showcase grass-roots talent in the region and adjust sales to the changing economic climate across the Emirates.

Christie's autumn sale will take place over two evenings next month. The first, on October 25, will include modern works by Middle Eastern artists such as Mahmoud Said, Charles Hossein Zenderoudi, Fateh Moudarres, Mohammed Ehsai and Parviz Tanavoli.

The second half of the auction will take place on the following evening and will offer a wider range of younger artists and concentrate on contemporary art from the region.

"The difference is one of price rather than quality," said Ms Khayat.

Pieces auctioned on the first night will start at approximately US$50,000 (Dh183,640), while the second night will see works range from $3,000 to $50,000.

The second part of the sale will be aimed at young entrepreneurs and professionals who want to dip their toes into the art market for pleasure or as an investment.

"I think what they are doing is smart," said Asmaa Al Shabibi, the co-founder of Lawrie Shabibi, a gallery in Dubai's Al Quoz district that held its inaugural exhibition in March.

Ms Shabibi said buyers often found auction houses intimidating and were put off by the exorbitant estimates.

"The nature of the work will attract the younger crowd because it's more edgy than the other works," she said. "Even for the people that are buying the expensive work, everybody wants to see fresh work, and I don't think the standard will be different."

Christie's estimates sales from its October auction of $4.5 million to $6m for the first night and $2m to $3m for the second.

"I think it's always good to attract the younger collectors, and there are young collectors here," said Ms Shabibi. "As collections grow, they will go into the more expensive works."

Regional interest in art is expected to continue to flourish as the Louvre and Guggenheim museums open in Abu Dhabi within a few years, while Emirates NBD announced in January it was teaming up with the Fine Art Fund Group to offer advisory services for bank customers who want to invest in art as an asset.