I am in complete disbelief, already half of the year has passed. The first six months of 2019 have been busy for the Islamic Arts Market, with some beautiful auctions and some historical artefacts!
After the spring Islamic week in London, all eyes were turned to Paris for Millon & Associés and Ader Nordmann early summer auctions, but also to New-York for Maharajas & Mughal Magnificence at Christie’s New York, where were presented 359 items from the Sheikh Hamad Al-Thani collection, all more fantastic than the other. My concern for this auction, voiced in my article for lot-art blog, was that the market wouldn’t be able to absord the profusion of high valued items. This concern was reflected by Christie’s decision to sell all lots valued below $50.000 without reserve. However, all lots but one (withdrawn) were sold, though for a total price that is considered by most, and myself, as not that high.
While $109.271.875 is a fair price, it still reflects the fact that Islamic Arts remain a niche field, despite a exhibition tour of several years and an agressive communication campain let by Christie’s. More was expected from this auction, and it would be interesting to dig in the lots history to calculate the actual capital gain.
For instance, an enamelled and diamond-set suite of paan boxes made in Hyderabad around 1760-80 achieved $975.000, but had previously been sold at Sotheby’s in 2013 for $1.063.644 (both incl. premium).
Same goes for the star lot of the auction, a Cartier Belle-Epoque diamond devant-de-corsage brooch, valued $10.000.000/15.000.000 and sold with premium just above the low range, $10.603.500. The item had been aquired in 2014 from Christie’s Geneva for around $16.024.840 (CHF 15.845.000).
Between the inflation and the natural increase in value, we end up with a probably disappointed seller who overall seems to have lost a fair amount of money.
Paris auctions were equally interesting to follow for different reasons. Both Millon et Associé and Ader Nordmann had a large selection of diverse quality, with some really interesting pieces, and both were particularly manuscript-heavy following the unexpected success of last winter auctions. Millon sold 45% of their 389 lots for a total of 849 894€, while Ader sold 57.3% of the 398 lots presented for 501 012€. Millon remains in the 1st place on the Parisian market, which can be attributed to a less encyclopaedic selection but of higher quality and a younger and more expensive looking catalogue. Here lies one of the challenges that faces Drouot, the historical auction place in Paris. In compareason to British auction houses who highligh the luxury that already emanates from the art market, many French auction houses represented at Drouot look like flea markets. To counter this, a fresher looking and well organised catalogue seems like a step in the right direction.
Interestingly, both auction houses have included contemporary pieces to their selection. While Orientalism and early photographies are common in French auctions, 21st century artists are usually absent. The self-imposed barriers of the field seem to be slowly falling, and even though buyers remain timid, it will be very interesting to see how Parisian market will evolve. Contemporary Islamic art is generally sold in dedicated auctions in Dubai, London, Tehran and New-York, so I am curious to see if French auction houses will pick up the trend and raise up to the challenge.
Personnally, these past months have definitely kept me busy, being mainly focused on exciting collaborations with several journals and academic publications to come out soon.
This summer and the second half of the year will be equally intense, probably more, as I am now going to focuse my energy on the publication of my doctoral dissertation. This is a goal I set for myself at the beginning of the year but the task is big and time is always too short.
I have also been thinking about the content of my website and how to improve what it offers to all readers, either completely new to Islamic Arts or well specialised. I will like to make this site a plateform open to all, collectors wanting to introduce their latest acquisition, young (or less young!) scholars working on a specific topic, or even professionals of the art market commenting on upcoming auctions.
If you feel like this could interest you, get it touch through the Contact page and let’s see where we could go together!