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Strong sales at Art Dubai shadowed by censorship of Pakistani artist

Market worries conspicuously absent at Art Dubai

Dubai. Market worries were conspicuously absent at Art Dubai (which ended on Sunday) among those galleries dealing specifically in Indian and Middle Eastern art. This consolidated the trend established at the inaugural fair in 2007, when Indian and Pakistani art were the best sellers.

Walsh Galleries, Chicago, who have supported Indian contemporary art since 1993 told The Art Newspaper: “We have strong offers on almost everything. Our problem is deciding where to place works.” The gallery sold Rickshawpolis 8 by Jitish Kallat to two Indian collectors residing in Dubai although a Ravinder Reddy head, priced at $600,000, was unsold despite strong interest.

The majority of the buyers at Art Dubai were from the region but leading European collectors made significant purchases. The British collector Charles Saatchi, whose upcoming show in London, “The Empire Strikes Back” will focus on Indian contemporary art, did not attend the fair, but he acquired a large pop-style group portrait (Untitled Eclipse 3, 2007) by Indian artist Jitish Kallat at Chemould Prescott Road Gallery (Mumbai), for about $200,000. Another Saatchi acquisition, Arabian Delight by the Pakistani artist Huma Mulji, which the collector bought before the fair opened, was removed from a curated display on the fair’s third day (see box).

Another leading British collector, Frank Cohen, snapped up Jagannath Panda’s figurative study of trees, Absence in Cite, 2007, for about $95,000, again from the Chemould Prescott Road Gallery, a price that seems a bargain considering that a similar image and size of work sold at the Saffron Art auction house in India for $353,000 in March.

The artist Rashid Rana from Pakistan, and Jitish Kallat and Subodh Gupta from India, were also sought after, with Continua gallery selling Gupta’s painting Idol Thief for just under $400,000 to a European buyer.

Iranian and other Middle Eastern artists were also in demand. The Third Line Gallery in Dubai sold Iranian artist Monir Farmanfarmaian’s metallic sculpture Cubes within Cubes for $120,000 to an Emirati woman, while B21, also based in Dubai, sold out works by the Iranian painter Rokni Haerizadeh (prices around $30,000). At the satellite Creek fair, Iranian artists, such as Malekeh Nayiny at the XVA Gallery, were also in demand.

In general, those dealers who tailored their offerings to the Middle Eastern audience did well, and even Japanese and Korean art was selling; least popular, it seems, was European and American art.

Some major pieces, including a large $850,000 Sam Francis at Max Lang, and Wim Delvoye’s lacy metallic sculpture Cement Truck (2008) at Albion ($900,000), failed to find a buyer at Art Dubai, although what was probably the most expensive work on show, Jawlenski’s House with Palmtree (1914) priced at $1.78m at Galerie Thomas, was under negotiation with a Russian collector.

Like Dubai itself, the fair is in a sense “under construction” and evolving rapidly. But the camel incident reveals the limitations of this still nascent market. Dealers had already self-censored their stands—one exhibitor, for example, had decided not to bring Botero nudes. If works of a political or sexual nature might be problematic, it is difficult to imagine that the fair can become fully international, the risk being that it becomes a niche event for Middle Eastern art.

And with Abu Dhabi offering the strongest cultural programme with its new museums (see p1), Art Paris, which expanded to the state last year, could become a serious rival. The Abu Dhabi authorities claim that there will be no limitations on what will be bought for its new museum: “Art is an international language and there are no politics in it,” said Zaki Nusseibeh, culture adviser to the authority. Georgina Adam

dubai. Market worries were conspicuously absent at Art Dubai (which ended on Sunday) among those galleries dealing specifically in Indian and Middle Eastern art. This consolidated the trend established at the inaugural fair in 2007, when Indian and Pakistani art were the best sellers.

Walsh Galleries, Chicago, who have supported Indian contemporary art since 1993 told The Art Newspaper: “We have strong offers on almost everything. Our problem is deciding where to place works.” The gallery sold Rickshawpolis 8 by Jitish Kallat to two Indian collectors residing in Dubai although a Ravinder Reddy head, priced at $600,000, was unsold despite strong interest.

The majority of the buyers at Art Dubai were from the region but leading European collectors made significant purchases. The British collector Charles Saatchi, whose upcoming show in London, “The Empire Strikes Back” will focus on Indian contemporary art, did not attend the fair, but he acquired a large pop-style group portrait (Untitled Eclipse 3, 2007) by Indian artist Jitish Kallat at Chemould Prescott Road Gallery (Mumbai), for about $200,000. Another Saatchi acquisition, Arabian Delight by the Pakistani artist Huma Mulji, which the collector bought before the fair opened, was removed from a curated display on the fair’s third day (see box).

Another leading British collector, Frank Cohen, snapped up Jagannath Panda’s figurative study of trees, Absence in Cite, 2007, for about $95,000, again from the Chemould Prescott Road Gallery, a price that seems a bargain considering that a similar image and size of work sold at the Saffron Art auction house in India for $353,000 in March.

The artist Rashid Rana from Pakistan, and Jitish Kallat and Subodh Gupta from India, were also sought after, with Continua gallery selling Gupta’s painting Idol Thief for just under $400,000 to a European buyer.

Iranian and other Middle Eastern artists were also in demand. The Third Line Gallery in Dubai sold Iranian artist Monir Farmanfarmaian’s metallic sculpture Cubes within Cubes for $120,000 to an Emirati woman, while B21, also based in Dubai, sold out works by the Iranian painter Rokni Haerizadeh (prices around $30,000). At the satellite Creek fair, Iranian artists, such as Malekeh Nayiny at the XVA Gallery, were also in demand.

In general, those dealers who tailored their offerings to the Middle Eastern audience did well, and even Japanese and Korean art was selling; least popular, it seems, was European and American art.

Some major pieces, including a large $850,000 Sam Francis at Max Lang, and Wim Delvoye’s lacy metallic sculpture Cement Truck (2008) at Albion ($900,000), failed to find a buyer at Art Dubai, although what was probably the most expensive work on show, Jawlenski’s House with Palmtree (1914) priced at $1.78m at Galerie Thomas, was under negotiation with a Russian collector.

Like Dubai itself, the fair is in a sense “under construction” and evolving rapidly. But the camel incident reveals the limitations of this still nascent market. Dealers had already self-censored their stands—one exhibitor, for example, had decided not to bring Botero nudes. If works of a political or sexual nature might be problematic, it is difficult to imagine that the fair can become fully international, the risk being that it becomes a niche event for Middle Eastern art.

And with Abu Dhabi offering the strongest cultural programme with its new museums (see p1), Art Paris, which expanded to the state last year, could become a serious rival. The Abu Dhabi authorities claim that there will be no limitations on what will be bought for its new museum: “Art is an international language and there are no politics in it,” said Zaki Nusseibeh, culture adviser to the authority.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as ‘Strong sales shadowed by censorship of Pakistani artist'