Christie’s EMEA President Welcomes New Opportunities in Art in Saudi Arabia


RIYAD: Christies’ EMEA has expressed openness to new opportunities involving art in Saudi Arabia during its participation in the Riyadh International Book Fair 2021.

Arab News had the opportunity to speak with its President for Europe, Middle East, Russia and India, Dr Dirk Boll, whose auction house presented maps and manuscripts rare and historic on the Christie’s stand.

“Christie’s has a great tradition in the presentation and sale of works of art. We want to understand what interests collectors. This is why we are always behind the latest fad and why we are called an aftermarket, ”said Dr Boll.

Founded in 1766 in the United Kingdom, Christie’s organizes auctions in London, Paris, New York and Hong Kong, the most favorable markets for art sellers.

Christie’s does not sell directly from the studio of the artists’ studio, but rather offers items that have received some reception in the market and institutions, explained Dr Boll.

Dr Boll, who has worked with Christie’s for 23 years, grew up in Kassel, Germany, where there was a tradition of collecting ancient works of art, such as rare manuscripts and antiques.

Every five years, Kassel becomes the center of the art world, as hundreds of thousands of visitors come to “documenta”, the largest international exhibition of contemporary art in the world.

“I had the best of both worlds, and that’s what inspired me as a student [in art]”said Dr Boll.

“As we all know, printed books succeed manuscript. Christie’s has art products dating back over 600 years, dating back to the 15th century, ”he said.

“The art market in Saudi Arabia is a small market because it is a market that is defined by regional demand and production on the one hand, but it is also a society that looks beyond borders and which traditionally also buys and sells abroad.

“So you have a matrix of a local situation and a local clientele that are absolutely accustomed to international behavior and collection,” he said.

When selecting works of art to display and auction, Christie’s examines the most interesting pieces available through a careful selection process, involving screening and due diligence, to confirm that their art is genuine.

Art over the past 70 years has evolved at a rapid pace, from the post-war era, through globalization and advancements in “communication technologies”; However, that’s not necessarily a “bad” thing, explained Dr Boll, because art is about how the world connects.

Before COVID-19, buying and selling art rarely took place in the digital world.

“Art is a matter of direct inspection and perception of the work of art. We want to see it in all its dimensions, we want to smell it, want to smell it – if it’s made of a smelly material – and that was impossible in 2020, ”said Dr Boll.

Art buyers and collectors have set out to replace these online experiences using technology, such as improved picture quality, more in-depth content, and videos.

“It’s always best to look at it in the flesh,” Dr. Boll said. “It’s a bit of an arrogant take on people who live in metropolitan cities, because if you’re interested in something that’s auctioned off six hours from where you live, it’s not that easy.

“The new digital future of the art market today reflects the current state of society on a global scale,” he said.

The introduction of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) is one of the ways the art has changed digitally.

Dr Boll said he was delighted to see artists seeing it as a new tool and a technology that secures participation and certain resale, publicity and reach rights.

It goes back to how art is supposed to reflect today’s society and the ways the world is connected, he said.

“The fashion for NFT-based works or digital works accompanied by an NFT certificate reflects the evolution of societies over the past 10 to 15 years, so I welcome that.”

Christie’s has been auctioning NFTs for a month now, Dr Boll said, and last week it had sold over $ 100 million in NFT art in 2021 alone.

He plans to return to Riyadh next month to participate in the Misk Global Forum.


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