Rubens' arrival marks a first for UAE

Artist's Portrait of a bearded Venetian nobleman, highlight of Sotheby’s current five-day exhibition in DIFC, is the first Old Master to be shown in this country

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - September 28, 2016.  Edward Gibbs ( Chairman, Middle East and India - Sotheby's ) at RIRA Gallery.  ( Jeffrey E Biteng / The National )  Editor's Note;  ID 58517 *** Local Caption ***  JB280916-EGibbs08.jpg
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Sotheby’s is exhibiting an Old Master in the UAE for the first time to satisfy an increasing appetite for the works among Middle East collectors.

Peter Paul Rubens' Portrait of a bearded Venetian nobleman, is the highlight of Sotheby's current five-day exhibition in DIFC, which runs until Saturday.

“It’s quite a large exhibition,” says Edward Gibbs, Sotheby’s Middle East and India chairman.

“It’s a mixture of arts and the Islamic world highlights. Those would be classical historical pieces and some important medieval manuscripts, decorative works from the great Islamic empires. We also have a stunning array of modern and contemporary Arab works, including by Mahmoud Said, the master Egyptian painter.”

Bringing the Rubens to Dubai is a major event for Sotheby’s, and the region, says Mr Gibbs.

The Dubai exhibition marks the first time that the work has been on show for 40 years. Its inclusion in the Old Masters sale this July in London, with an estimate in the region of £3 million (Dh15.43m), was announced on Sunday.


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“It’s certainly a milestone, both for Sotheby’s and also the region, there is no question about that,” says Mr Gibbs.

“We see increasing participation from the Mena region and the UAE in particular the profile of buyers in Old Master sales. So that is another important factor.”

Between 2016 – 2017, Sotheby’s recorded a 43 per cent increase in Middle East participants in its Old Masters sales.

The exhibition of the Rubens marks a new phase in collecting in the region, says Mr Gibbs.

“And I think the Louvre Abu Dhabi will be a major part in influencing tastes here. Sotheby’s wants to participate in that new energy, in that new focus and that new taste.”

Rubens – who was one of the most celebrated and sought-after artists of his time – is considered among one of the top 10, if not the top 10 Old Master painters.

One of his works, The Tiger Hunt, was recently featured in a Louis Vuitton range of bags designed by US artists Jeff Koons.