Sotheby's sees surge in Islamic art sales

Sales up from US$10.4m in 2001 to US$71m last year, the US-based auction house said
Edward Gibbs, senior director at Sotheby’s and head of the department for the Middle East and India.
By Shane McGinley
Sun 02 Sep 2012 12:44 PM

US-based Sotheby's, one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine and decorative art, has sold more than GBP£200m (US$316m) worth of classical and contemporary Islamic art over the last decade, rising from GBP£6.6m (US$10.4m) in 2001 to GBP£45m (US$71m) last year as demand grows for art from the region.

With the growth in museums in Qatar and around the region, such as the planned Louvre and Guggenheim museums in Abu Dhabi and the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, there is growing business in the region for Islamic pieces of art and auction houses have flooded to the region to take advantage of the rapid growth in sales.

“We have noticed that [Qatar] is an important emerging market for us and there is a surge of interest in the region and among important new buyers, both private and institutional. It is an area we are looking to invest in and that is reflected in our recent activities,” said Edward Gibbs, senior director at Sotheby’s and head of the department for the Middle East and India.

“We have been holding travelling highlights from our global sales in the region for the last three to four years and the Islamic highlights exhibition takes place twice a year… It is an opportunity for us to show the best we have to offer to our new buyers in the Gulf region,” Gibbs added.

In terms of prices, Gibbs said these also have a diverse range. “In the Islamic sales in London, in the classic pre-modern category we have a minimum lot value of GBP£5,000 (US$7,904) per item.

“In the Arab and Iranian contemporary and modern category, post 1900, we have a minimum of GBP£3,000 (US$4742). The record price for an Islamic work of art is a Persian miniature we sold in April 2011 and it sold for GBP£7.5m (US$11.85m)… So the range is from 5,000 to GBP£7.5m.”

Three of the highlights from the upcoming exhibition include a Turkish Century illustrated leaf from the 16th Century, which has an estimate of GBP£70,000 - GBP£90,000.

A late 12th Century/early 13th Century Persian bowl has an estimate of GBP£80,000 - GBP£120,000, while a gold cup from 14th Century Asia is estimated to sell for GBP£30,000 - GBP£50,000.

Earlier this year, an unnamed Qatari royal was reported to have spent GBP£158m (US$250m) buying Paul Cezanne’s The Card Players painting, making it the highest sum ever paid for an art work. In addition, Qatar was also believed to have been interested in bidding for Edvard Munch’s iconic painting ‘The Scream’ when it was sold in New York earlier this year.

The next Travelling Exhibition of Arts of the Islamic World, will take place in Doha on September 14 and 15 at the Katara Gallery, Katara Cultural Village, which will preview pieces of art that will go under the hammer at the auction in October.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Subscribe to Arabian Business' newsletter to receive the latest breaking news and business stories in Dubai,the UAE and the GCC straight to your inbox.