A watercolor and gouache painting by late Egyptian artist Abdul Hadi Al Gazzar, which portrays workers building the Suez Canal, fetched $1.02 million, approximately eight times its pre-sale estimate, at a Christie’s auction, setting a record for the artist in Dubai.
The impressive sale coincided with the opening of Art Dubai, a premier art fair in the Middle East region, which took place from March 19 to 22. Christie’s brought its spring sale forward to align with the event.
Michael Jeha, managing director of Christie’s in the Middle East region, says the date change “provided a more convenient and single [location] for visiting international collectors to see the very best of art from the region in one week”.
The painting, sold to a telephone bidder, was the top lot at the sales held by Christie’s International Plc.
The Egyptian artist set a previous record at a Christie’s Dubai auction in 2011, when an oil painting was sold for $746,500. Al Gazzar was part of the Contemporary Art Group. Founded in 1946, its members comprise artists that are inspired by folk symbolism and popular traditions.
Art lovers from across the globe flocked to the city for the eighth annual fair that showcased the works of more than 500 artists this year. Christie’s auction of Modern and Contemporary Arab, Iranian and Turkish Art, meanwhile, raised an impressive $10.6m, an increase of 65 per cent, when compared with last year’s sales. The London-based auction house, which held its first Dubai auction in 2006, is catering to the region’s wealthy clientele.
The contemporary section of the fair included 70 galleries, comprising works worth more than $45 million. Approximately half of the exhibitors was from the Middle East region and Central Asia.
These days, wealthy buyers prefer to buy artworks, after prices surged in the past decade, beating asset classes such as US stocks and gold.