Contemporary Art

Why Dubai Now?

By Sotheby's

A head of the inaugural Boundless: Dubai sale on 13 November, Sotheby’s specialist Ashkan Baghestani explains why, after so much time in the region and championing Middle Eastern art, Sotheby’s decided that now is the right time to hold this sale in Dubai.

Swetlana Gasetski


Ashkan Baghestani: Dubai is now well-established as an international hub for not only finance but art, and the interest in regional art is growing internationally, and we all believe this is the right time for us to be holding our first Boundless: Dubai sale for a number of reasons. As a company we have been building momentum for some time now in the region, and this year opened our Dubai office in March with a great gallery space in a superb location so that we can expand the scope of what we offer locally as well as our client services. We’ve since been able to stage some great exhibitions and educational events on a bigger scale than previously, and our forthcoming sale is a commitment to the regional art scene and the logical next step for us. It’s a statement of how much we believe in the importance of this regional hub and the wider region as a company.

Swetlana Gasetski


The works in this sale bridge several categories and genres. What differentiates it from other sales?

AB: This sale is quite unique in its scope and different from what collectors have previously seen in the region. The sale is themed to reflect the eclectic way in which people collect, but the driving factor behind the theme is to show the influence and importance of Middle Eastern culture throughout centuries and the world. We wanted to create conversations and dialogues between artists, regions etc. The sale has no boundaries, no walls, it aims to really have an international language combining so many categories such as: prints, modern, contemporary international, books, Islamic, photography, 20th century design and obviously Arab and Iranian.

Swetlana Gasetski


Why do you believe offering such a taste of regional and international art will appeal to the Middle Eastern buyer?

AB: We know that the approach to collecting by clients in the region has evolved and we’re proud to have been part of that development. They want to discover new genres and new fields and we are offering that with this sale by introducing a diversity of  collecting categories in a single sale (i.e. Design is big in the region and that clients who would be interested in a Banisadr would also be open to a piece by Zaha Hadid but wouldn’t usually bid in a Design sale). It was also important for us to engage with a younger audience that is not familiar with the auction world or the art world as much as we want to continue the collecting journey with our clients who are more established collectors and are looking for gems by artists they are familiar with. As a result we made sure to include price points that are accessible and attractive to a new audience.

Swetlana Gasetski


There is undoubtedly a wealth of Middle East collectors based in London. Do you think a sale such as this will prompt them to start buying directly from Dubai/Middle East or does it even matter anymore where a sale is held?

AB: Geography is no longer a boundary for buying in auctions, especially with online buying nowadays. The quality of the content of our sales is of the greatest importance, since anyone can bid and buy in any of our international sales. That said, there are nuances as to what we offer in any given geographical location, and having built up our London sales of Modern & Contemporary Middle Eastern art to broaden the international client base for this category, we are in a position where we simultaneously want to contribute further to the local market in the region. Boundless: Dubai caters as much to the local market as it does to the international market so we expect to see buying both locally and internationally.

Swetlana Gasetski


The Boundless Dubai sale is on 13 November. Highlights include Bahman Mohasses, Untitled, 1966. Estimate $180,000–250,000, Samia Halaby, Untitled (Big Michelangelo Perspective No. 162), 1965. Estimate $30,000–40,000 and Franz West, Onkelstuhl (Uncle Chair). Estimate $20,000–30,000.

A version of this article appeared in Harper’s Bazaar Arabia


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