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Tue 22 Mar 2011 09:02 AM

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Billionaires splash out on Arab art at Dubai fair

Art Dubai saw a 30% spike in vistitors; artworks at the annual show were priced from $5,000 to $1m

Billionaires splash out on Arab art at Dubai fair
The painting Free Art by Patricia Triki was among the artworks on display at the Dubai show

Billionaire collectors splashed out in Dubai as galleries
reported stronger sales and a growing interest in Middle Eastern art.

Business at Art Dubai was better than last year, when the
global economic crisis depressed sales, said dealers. Buyers shrugged off
worries about political unrest and natural disasters that held back business at
the world’s largest art- and-antiques fair, Tefaf, taking place in the
Netherlands.

Art Dubai, a bellwether for contemporary and Middle Eastern
art, this year featured 82 galleries from 34 countries. Fair organizers said
“several hundred” galleries applied to participate, and 80 percent of them
reapplied from last year. Artworks were priced from $5,000 to $1m.

“Art Dubai is a meeting point for the international and
Middle Eastern art communities,” Antonia Carver, Art Dubai’s director, said.
“Dubai historically has been important as a trading point for the Middle East
and Southeast Asia. Now, the same thing is happening for contemporary art.”

Traffic Gallery of Dubai reported 40 works sold for a total
of more than $100,000. One of Ahmed Mater’s “Evolution of Man” series (2010)
was bought by a Saudi collector for $30,000 just before the fair opened. The
light-box work shows a gasoline pump morphing into the X-rayed skeleton of a
human holding a gun to his head.

“There’s a bedrock of collectors here from the Middle East
and Europe,” said Carver. “A lot of Middle Easterners come to the fair from New
York and London.”

Aidan Gallery of Moscow sold a work from Aladdin Garunov’s
“Zikr” series for $20,000 to a Middle Eastern collector living in Europe. It
features shoes fastened to an oriental carpet. The artist is from Russia’s
southern region of Dagestan.

“Dubai is Russia’s Miami, and many of my Russian clients
vacation here,” said Aidan Salakhova, the gallery owner. “Last year Art Dubai
was dead and we twiddled our thumbs: This year there’s strong interest from
serious potential buyers.”

Ayyam Gallery of Beirut sold “Dream 40” by Safwan Dahoul for
$300,000 to an “important public institution.” Galerie Chantal Crousel of Paris
said a Gulf collector bought “Intermission” by Jennifer Allora and Guillermo
Calzadilla, who will represent the US at the Venice Biennale of Contemporary
Art that opens in June.

Artspace Gallery of Dubai reported sales including Nadine
Hammam’s “Got Love” (2010) that shows the silhouette of a female nude. It sold
for $16,000 to a Dubai collector.

The gallery also sold Zakaria Ramhani’s, “Bye Bye Hosni,”
(2011) for $26,000. Its theme is Hosni Mubarak’s recent removal as president of
Egypt.

Art Dubai said 20,000 people attended, 30 percent more than
last year. The British Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum and Royal Academy
of London sent representatives. Serpentine Gallery co-director Hans Ulrich
Obrist, Museum of Modern Art director Glenn Lowry and Richard Armstrong,
director of the Guggenheim Museum, also attended, the organizers said.

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Suad alhalwachi 9 years ago

I think investing in Art is the safest thing these days, but investors beware, you could pay more for less. Ask the experts first. Also putting your money in a painting describes you as a person, but investing in property for example doesn't tell your identity, so many people go the art way as they want to put their identity on display.