Dubai, Asharq Al-Awsat- The first thing you notice when you walk into the Dubai office of Christie’s, the world famous auction house, is the sculpture by the contemporary Iranian international artist Parviz Tanavoli entitled ‘Heech.’ the Persian word for ‘nothing.’ But, paradoxically, as you enter, everything is waiting for you. Upon entry to the jewels exhibition you will be first met by a small diamond ring, which in fact contains a diamond worth over one million dollars, as well as a large group of precious jewels. It also features two pieces created by Lebanese jewelry designer Andre Marcha that are being exhibited for the first time and they include a set of multi-colored sapphire bangles and a ring that is estimated to sell at 30,000 US dollars in addition to a bangle encrusted with spinel cabochons with an estimated value of 25,000 US dollars.
It is apparent at this year’s auction that Christie’s is seeking to reach out to a wider audience and this is reflected in the participation of a number of Arab designers and artists for the first time. On show, there is also a gold bangle set with precious stones [designed by Nadine Kanso] representing the [colors of the] flags of a number of Arab states and inscribed on the inside is the Arabic word ‘fadeytak’ part of the UAE dialect [and it expresses the act of sacrificing in the name of love]. This suggests that there is a stronger focus on the Arab market and the UAE market in particular.
The Christie’s auction has taken a strong interest in fine jewels designed by some of the most famous designers in the Middle East alongside designs by European jewelry designers. This was clear in the announcement by the auction house that [the works of] five new Middle Eastern designers would be included in the auction, in addition to its interest in art pieces by regional and international artists, painters and sculptors such as Fateh Moudarres, Ali Omar Ermes, Parviz Tanavoli, Farhad Moshiri and others.
Jewelry specialist Lyne Kaddoura at Christie’s told Asharq Al-Awsat, “The jewels included in the auction this year appeal to the tastes of collectors around the world and by virtue of the relationships that we are building with our clients, it is expected that clients who bought jewels in previous auctions will come. There are many pieces that are distinct this year, including a set of rings and designs being shown for the first time including a set that conveys the spirit of the east.”
On her part, Hala Khayat, a specialist in contemporary arts at Christie’s, told Asharq Al-Awsat that there are 125 pieces of artwork at the Christie’s auction. “We have distinct pieces from around the Arab world and from Egypt in particular. In response to those who ask us why we don’t exhibit pieces by Arab artists, we say that we do not look at nationalities but at the work itself and whether or not it is good; we have distinct pieces from Syria, Egypt and Lebanon.”
Khayat indicated that the Arab pieces that are taking part [in the auction] are some of the most important pieces in the auction. She added, “We hope that these works are sold to public institutions such as museums and cultural centers so that the Arab generations can see them because every piece is considered a school in itself with its own technique, topic, color and light…the new generation does not see important Arab works and as a result they are fascinated by Western art.”
In reference to the financial crisis and its impact on auctions, Khayat said, “In last year’s auction we were able to sell 88 percent of our pieces. This year we are optimistic and confident we will sell all of our exhibits and we won’t pay attention to the implications of the financial crisis,” indicating that the region is quickly progressing towards promising horizons and that the number of registered clients from Middle Eastern countries increased by 30 percent in 2009, the highest increase of any geographical region in 2009, followed by Greater China with 20 percent.
One of the notable exhibits at the auction, the significance of which is difficult for spectators to understand by itself, is the work by Iranian artist Farhad Moshiri. The piece consists of  carpets stacked one on top of the other with a hole in the middle in the shape of a fighter jet. Hala Khayat explained, “This artistic work is estimated to sell at 250,000 dollars.” There is also one piece of artwork at the auction by UAE artist Abdul Qader al Rais.