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Christie's holds auction in Saudi Arabia to raise funds for Jeddah museum

Sale raises $1.3m for new heritage museum dedicated to the history of Jeddah's historical district

The sale was held in Nassif House in Jeddah's historical district Courtesy of Christie's

Christie’s conducted an auction in Saudi Arabia yesterday to raise funds for a new heritage museum in the Jeddah historical district Al Balad and a local charity for children with special educational needs.

Dubbed Art For Al Balad: A Charity Auction, the auction—held in partnership with the country’s Ministry of Culture and Hafez Gallery—is described as the first event of its kind in the country and included 43 works donated by collectors, artists and galleries. It raised SR4.8m ($1.3m), led by a Abdullah Al Shalty’s painting Tawaf Around The Kaabah 2, which sold for SR650,000 (estimate: SR120,000) and an untitled work from 1996 by Prince Badr bin Abdulmohsen bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud sold for SR500,000.

Michael Jeha, the chairman of Christie’s Middle East, says: “This project reflects Christie’s ongoing commitment to the artists, the culture and the preservation of history in the region. We regularly provide charity auctioneers and support to philanthropic projects and this fund-raising initiative will raise awareness for the importance of the long-term preservation of Jeddah Historic District, a Unesco World Heritage Site as well raising funds for this worthy children’s charity.”

Christie’s will not be directly involved with the museum beyond the fundraising auction, however, and the Ministry of Culture says its venue is yet to be decided.

Saudi Arabia’s minister of culture, Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al Saud, is heading the restoration of the Jeddah historical district, with the aim of turning it into a cultural quarter. The old town of Jeddah is already home to The Jameel House of Traditional Arts which opened in 2015, a collaboration between Art Jameel and the Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts.

Sotheby’s has also been linked to the cultural rejuvenation in Saudi Arabia, which is part of the country’s push to establish a tourism industry. In January, Bloomberg, the Sotheby’s-owned company Art Agency, Partners has submitted plans for a new culture complex to be built in the northwest Al-Ula region of Saudi Arabia. In January, a Sotheby’s spokeswoman told The Art Newspaper that the firm is “not able to comment” on the plans and “discussions are exploratory” at this stage, but confirmed that Allan Schwartzman, the principal of Art Agency, Partners, has sat on the advisory board of the Royal Commission for Al-Ula, an organisation overseeing the development of the region, since autumn 2017.