While many are worried about the violence and instability in the Middle East, one area seems to be booming – the art auction world. A recent auction in Dubai proves the region’s increased interest in all things art. The latest auction by Christie’s actually broke 42 world auction records.
Interest Through Christie’s
As Michael Jeha, managing director of Christie’s Middle East explained, “The solid results for both the art and the jewelry sales are an indication that the art market in the Middle East continues to mature and attract an increasingly international and local following.”
Bonhams’ 7th Auction
Bonhams, which just had its seventh auction in the area, also saw very strong results. As Jonathan Horwich, the Global Director of the Picture Department at Bonhams said, “We saw good results and increased levels of competitive bidding across the estimate range. With the addition of online live bidding this year we saw even wider participation from international collectors than we have previously experienced.”
Both Bonhams and Christie’s entered the Middle East market relatively recently. Christie’s first came to the area in 2005 and Bonhams made its start in 2007. In 2010, Dubai actually became Christie’s fastest growing sales centre with a 153% increase over what they had seen in 2009.
Transformations in the Art Market
As Michael Jeha explained, “The regional art market has rapidly transformed before our eyes. You only have to look at the catalogue for our Middle Eastern art sale on April 19 and compare it with our first sale catalogue in 2006 to appreciate how the quality of the works has developed with each sale season. The pool of collectors interested in bidding in the sales has expanded too and in 2010, bidders in Christie’s Dubai sales came from 25 countries.”
Last Thursday, President Obama met with the Emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, expressing his appreciation for the Emir’s leadership about democracy in the Middle East and the work that they have done to try to promote a peaceful transition in Libya.
Obama’s Words at the Meeting
As Obama said at the meeting, “Qatar is not only supportive diplomatically but is also supportive militarily, and we are very appreciative of the outstanding work of that the Qataris have done side by side with the other international coalition members. In addition to our efforts in Libya, we have a strong relationship between our two countries. It is an economic relationship. It is a military relationship. It is a cultural relationship.”
Obama also congratulated the Emir for having the World Cup coming to Qatar in 2022.
Obama’s Off-the-Record Words
Thursday evening, during a political donors event in Chicago, Obama has other words to say about the meeting. While meeting with the donors at the q-and-a session, Obama didn’t realize that he was speaking on an open mike.
As Mark Knoller of CBS News recorded, Obama said, that evening that, Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani was a “Pretty influential guy…”He is a big booster, big promoter of democracy all throughout the Middle East. Reform, reform, reform — you’re seeing it on Al Jazeera.”
Obama went on to put his foot in his mouth when he said, “Now, he himself is not reforming significantly. There’s no big move towards democracy in Qatar. But you know part of the reason is that the per capita income of Qatar is $145,000 a year. That will dampen a lot of conflict.”