Saudi collectors, displaying acumen and an eye for bargain, made unparalleled purchases of artwork at Art Dubai 2011, which took place last week from March 16-19. The event drew a record attendance.
The largest and most diverse edition to date, Art Dubai attracted more than 20,000 guests, with a 30 percent increase in international visitors. Underscoring its role as a vital cultural meeting point connecting the Middle East and Asia with the rest of the world, Art Dubai 2011 was attended by curators, collectors, gallerists, artists, museum directors and more than 60 museum groups.
Of the 81 participating galleries, the majority experienced strong sales from the outset with major purchases from international and regional institutions in addition to established and first-time collectors from the Middle East, Europe, Asia and the United States. A number of participating galleries, including Chatterjee & Lal and Chemould Prescott Road (Mumbai), Bischoff/Weiss (London), Kalfayan Galleries (Athens/Thessaloniki), Sutton Gallery (Melbourne), Mah Art Gallery (Tehran), AB Gallery (Lucerne/Zurich), Grey Noise (Lahore), Gandhara-art (Hong Kong/Karachi), Pilar Corrias (London), Dirimart (Istanbul), Priska C. Juschka Fine Art (New York) and Gallery Isabelle Van Den Eynde (Dubai) among others sold most of their available works at the fair.
“Never before has there been such a level of international interest in the arts scenes of the MENASA or such a level of regional support for artists and their projects,” said Fair Director Antonia Carver, who is in her inaugural year leading Art Dubai. “Galleries at Art Dubai 2011 reported strong sales and the fair offered an unprecedented level of innovative artists’ projects and educational events, which we feel are part of what makes this fair unique.”
This year witnessed a huge interest from Saudi collectors eager to add to their art collections. Gallerists shared some of the purchases made at the fair with Arab News, revealing which artists and artworks persuaded the Khaleeji art patrons to dig into their pockets in support of arts.
“Saudi collectors were keen to increase their artistic possessions,” revealed Hamza Serafi, founder of Jeddah’s Athr Gallery of Saudi Contemporary Art. “New collectors were also present revealing an increased awareness and providing testimony that value of art is spreading.”
Vernissage sales included multiple mid-range priced pieces, many being purchased by young Saudi collectors. Highlights were two works by Bert Vredegor for $9,000 each from Galerie Kashya Hildebrand to a Saudi collector, while a work by 2010 Abraaj winner Marwan Sahmarani sold for $18,000 to another Saudi art aficionado. The Tunisian Galerie El-Marsa, sold Nija Mahdaoui’s tablas, or drums, for $140,000 to a Saudi collector, while LTMH Gallery sold a piece by Farideh Lashai to another Saudi collector for $55,000.
Traffic, which exhibited many Saudi artists, including Edge of Arabia’s Abdulnasser Gharem and Ahmed Mater, saw sales of seven drawings by Hesam Rahmanian for $1,000 each to Saudi, American and Iranian collectors before the official opening of the fair. Saudi artist Mater’s lightbox sold for $30,000 to a Saudi collector.
AB Gallery also saw some works get picked up by a Saudi art aficionado, with all three Halim Al-Karim pieces going to $45,000 each to a Saudi collector and three Yousef Ahmad’s were sold for $52,000 each — one of which was bought by a Swiss-Saudi collector.
Jeddah’s very own Athr Gallery’s contemporary pieces flew off the walls, going for anything between $3,000 to $16,000, including a beautiful Ayman Yossri Daydban. Green Art Gallery sold two works by Kamrooz Aram to a Saudi and Iranian collector for $35,000 and $50,000, respectively.
After the official opening, the following days of Art Dubai witnessed a continued rise of mid-range purchases. Gallerists shared the general consensus that more people were in attendance this year, with many new and emerging collectors on the scene.
Athr Gallery was also able to stand on its own, with pieces by Saudi-British photographer, Sami Al-Turki selling for $2,900 and three editions of Ayman Yossri Daydan’s “Haya Ya Ali” selling for $10,000 each. “I thanked a collector for supporting the burgeoning art scene in Saudi,” said Serafi regarding the interest from international collectors as well as regional ones. “But he quickly corrected me saying, ‘On the contrary, art is what gives a person a soul.’”
The following day, Athr Gallery continued strong with sales of works by Sami Al-Turki and Saddek Wasil going for $4,000 each.
Yossri Daydan’s lenticular “Love Me, Love Me Not” first edition was one of the coolest pieces at Art Dubai and was picked up by a local collector for $8,300 at Selma Feriani Gallery. The gallery also sold three photographs by Rula Halawani to US and Saudi collectors. AB Gallery sold a work by Yousef Ahmed to a Saudi collector for $40,000.
At Bischoff/Weiss, a staggering 14 pieces went of the walls by Aya Haydar. They claim the pieces went for anything between $2,900 to $4,900 to Lebanese and English collectors, while eight from a previous series called “Al-Balad” were sold to a Saudi collector for $16,200. “I've noticed that there is now a solid Middle Eastern collector base, which has grown immensely over the past two years and now stands out to me,” said Paola Weiss of Bischoff/Weiss, “In general people seem more interested in collecting. Furthermore, arts patronage has really started to show.”