Christie’s Figures 1 Half 2021

Over the first six months of the year the interest in the arts from the Middle Eastern region has increased and strong results have been achieved across Islamic, Middle Eastern art, carpets and watches, sold either in Dubai, London, Paris or New York.

Mapping Middle Eastern Art incorporates modern and contemporary art from the region into the international 20/21 Century Art Auctions at Christie’s. Furthermore, it should help bridging the gap between Western and Eastern art histories by presenting them within an international context, as a way to foster and strengthen cross category interest by identifying parallels in practice and form. A total of 20 Middle Eastern works of art have been places in at the first half of the year in five sales taking place in London, New York and Paris, achieving over U.S. $420,00 at present with international bidding activity and leveraging across category interest across Post – War & Contemporary and Middle Eastern buyers. Leading lost were painted by female artists, including modern mastern like Samia Halaby’s ‘Turn and Glow’, painted in 1987 sold for GBP60,000 against a pre – sale estimate of GBP20-30,000, followed by Etel Adnan’s tow works placed in the Paris auction Women in Art as well as in the 20/21 Century day sale in London. Contemporary names include Havy Kahraman in Women in Art, and Rokni Haerizadeh, ‘Khosrow and Shirin’ that exceeded its high estimate. This builds momentum for our dedicated Middle Eastern Modern and Contemporary Art taking place online in late October.

The live Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds including Oriental rugs and carpets auction on 1 April 2021 totalled GBP 10,771,500 surpassing its pre – sale estimate. The sale welcomed over 300 registrants from 33 countries and together with the online sale Calligraphy: Art in writing 17 Match to 7 April, 40% of all buyers were new to the category. Leading the live auction was a magnificent and recently rediscovered Qajar painting depicting a Parsian New Year, Norouz, procession (lot 30). The painting was bought in the early 1920s by the artist and collector Frederic Clay Barlett (1873 – 1953), to be hung in his studio at the family’s winter retreat ‘Bonnet House’, Florida, where it remained until earlier this year. On the day of the sale the painting doubled its pre – sale estimate and solf for GBP 2, 302, 500.

Further highlights of the live auction on 1 April included an illustration from the Shahname of Firdawsi, depicting Bahman enthroned at court for sixty years with attendants, from a known manuscript now in the Keir collection which was made produced in Shiraz circa 1540 – 50. This beautiful folio of 38.4 x 24.9 cm attracted competitive bidding eventually achieving a final price of GBP200,000 against a pre – sale estimate of GBP 10 – 15,000. Alongside this, a monumental Iznik tile with a striking nasta’liq inscription attracted much interest and sold for GBP 325,000, more than doubling its low estimate. Once part of the Boghos Ispenian family collection since the 1930, the lot demonstrated the importance collectors are placing on quality, rarity and provence.

The Oriental Rugs and Carpets sections performed extremly well with 87% of lots sold and achieved by value 113% above low estimate. Of the 230 Polonaise carpets that are preserved today, twenty nine of these have a matching twin identical in field and border design as well as in colour and are therefore considered to have been woven as pairs. The carpet sold on 1 April as lot 129 a Safavid carpet from the 17th century was one of a twin, its twin remains in the Doria Pamphiji museum in Genoa. Both are typical of the elegant designs produced in the weaving ateliers of Isfahan during the reign of Sahah’s Abbas I (1587 – 1626). At this time, Isfahan was a thriving city, the court of a monarch who had completely changed Persia, having moved his capital three in 1598 from Qazvin. It sold for GBP 2,062,500 and was brought by an important Middle Eastern Museum.

An additional auction highlight included a previously unpublished and unrecorded Safavid fragment from a once truly magnificent Kirman ‘Vase’ carpet woven in the first half of the 17th century, which sold for 562,500 euros/$772,875 / 659,250 euros.’ A dozen carpet fragraments from the same impressive carpet exist internationally in both private collections and in ten of the world’s most famoud museums. This fragment will become part of another international museum collection.

Christie’s Watches Online: The Dubai Edit (24 March – 8 April 2021) achieved a total of $14,120,250 with 89% sold by lot, 100% sold by value, and 131% hammer above low estimate. This exceptional result doubles the previous record from any Christie’s watches online auction, set in December 2020 in New York at $7,734,375. There was global participation from 37 countries with a total of 558 registrants. This sale has expanded its reach by welcoming participants from 13 new countries for the first time, including Norway, Darussalam and Uganda. The sale attracted more than 30,000 visitors online, while the appointment only preview exhibition in the Dubai Christie’s office was fully booked throughout the two weeks.

The top lot of the sale was Patek Philippe’s Sky Moon Tourbillon Ref. 5002 (illustrated front page), one of the most important watches ever made in modern history. It sold for $1,590,000, setting two new records simultaneously, as the most expensive watch sold at auction in the Middle East plus the new auction record for any watch sold online at Christie’s, previously standing at $600,000 (December 2020 for a ref 1462 by Patek Philippe), established in March 2018 when the Patek Philippe ref 1518 once owned by King Farouk of Egypt sold for $917,500.

The upcoming Watches Online: The Dubai Edit is scheduled to run from 13 to 27 October 2021, with a preview of all lots taking place in the Dubai Office at DIFC.