Dubai - For collectors, artists and enthusiasts, it's bliss and good business.
Art in Dubai has come of age with the city hosting a range of collections from all over the world that is inspiring people to buy more works of art. The diversity of the displays makes buying pieces in this global metropolis appealing as new talent is tapped. Some pick them out of love, others procure them as investment. It's big business because of the variety on offer. Piece and prices seem perfect, in harmony, and artists and collectors love the eclectic mix. Just head to the 12th edition of Art Dubai - the region's first and largest art fair, an event that has become an important feature in the city's vision to be a global cultural hub.
Sales are booming with over 105 galleries from 48 countries. Organisers expect a footfall of 28,000 and some serious shopping. Prices are competitive, and serious buyers are coming in droves. The collectibles at Art Dubai may be better priced than at Art Basel in Hong Kong (which starts today) or at Amsterdam's recently-concluded TEFAF Maastricht. Most aficionados are willing to shell out $10,000 for something they love to adorn their living rooms. Diversity is key, like we said earlier - from Indian British maestro Anish Kapoor's work priced at £800,000 to Pakistan's up and coming Muzzamil Raheel's series of paintings starting at $2,500.
This variety and affordability speaks of how art in this region has evolved. There are many buyers who are just starting out and others who already have museum-worthy collections at home. As we take a stroll, we hear that Ibrahim El Dessouki has been pre-sold at $130,000, India's Sudarshan Shetty's wood and ceramic works priced at $32,000 have also gone, so has Britain's Gary Webb's palm tree-inspired wall sculpture (this apparently to someone very important in Abu Dhabi). Middle East buyers prefer to remain anonymous. These were obviously bought for a reason, and to spend that sort of money has to do with more than the aesthetics.
Egyptian artist El Dessouki said: "When it's affordable, you buy for love, but when it's a high price you cannot simply buy for love." He feels pieces under $10,000 fall in the affordable zone. Sunny Rahbar of Dubai's Third Line Gallery, said people dig art for two reasons we mentioned earlier - love and money. She points to an artist whose work she first started featuring 10 years ago. Iranian artist Farad Moshiri's works went for just $5,000; today they start from $150,000.
Another gallery that has consistently sold well at Art Dubai is Kolkata's Experimenter. The range at this gallery is $5,000 upwards which is regulars in Dubai for eight years. Prateek Raja, the director, said: "Dubai is important in this region as it has the first-mover advantage; this is the most important show in the region."
This city is known as playground for the rich, many of them own houses here, and they need art to complete their fine-living experience in the city.
"You can tell a lot about a person by the art on their wall," said one Dubai-based collector. "It's not their address, it's their art that tells you what sort of money they have." Showing for a second time is Delhi Art Gallery (DAG), known for collections of India's most sought-after artists. The man behind DAG, Ashish Anand, is now looking for a permanent space in the city, as he believes there is an appetite for modern Indian art in the region.
Art Dubai's artistic director, Pablo del Val said collectors are 'professionals'. "They do not buy because it's an investment; that is when you make mistakes." The cardinal rule is to buy because you love it. Galleries owners echo that view. But del Val admitted: "Of course, nobody likes to buy art that falls in value or stays at the same price. That's a sign you made the wrong decision."
You can start an art collection with as little as $5,000. But when we looked around, every piece was over $10,000, and every work was sold. "It is about having a mission and a vision," del Val said succintly.
Which means you have to do your homework, and have an eye...and of course visit lots of art fairs to pick up that piece you love.