In Brief

Abraaj Group, Best Known for Supporting Contemporary Art in the Gulf, “Liquidates” 200 Works at Auction

Dubai-based private equity firm Abraaj Group is selling its collection of Arab, Iranian, and South Asian art, with estimated prices far below their original price.

Mohamma Ehsai, "He is Merciful" (2007) (image courtesy Bonhams)
Mohammad Ehsai, “He is Merciful” (2007) (image courtesy Bonhams)

Dubai-based private equity firm Abraaj Group is in the process of selling its art collection, consisting of around 200 works, at three Bonhams auctions on October 23 and 24 in London. The works are primarily by Arab, Iranian, and South Asian artists, some estimated at less than one-tenth the original price, according to  The National newspaper.

“They’re basically priced to sell,” Nima Sagharchi, Bonham’s director of Middle Eastern, Islamic, and South Asian art said, adding, “In essence, it’s a liquidation.”

Sagharchi remarked that works from the Abraaj collection have already sold at other auction houses. He added that on October 24 in London, Christie’s will be selling pieces from the personal collection of Abraaj Group’s founder and chief executive, Arif Naqvi.

Between 2008 to 2018, the Abraaj Group has sponsored the Art Dubai fair, and the company and its founder have long been “prominent collectors of art,” according to The National. However, the group went into provisional liquidation this year following allegations of “misuse of investors’ funds.”

Parviz Tanavoli, "Poet and the Bird" (2007), bronze (image courtesy Bonhams)
Parviz Tanavoli, “Poet and the Bird” (2006), bronze (image courtesy Bonhams)

Some of the works for sale include Mohammad Ehsai’s “He is the Merciful” (2007), currently estimated at $66,000 and purchased in 2008 for $1 million. Also on the auction block is Parviz Tanavoli’s large-scale bronze sculpture “Poet and the Bird” (2006), estimated at $66,000–$130,000 and purchased in 2008 for $480,000.

While many have questioned whether these pieces are priced too low, Sagharchi says that the estimates are similar to what they were ten years ago, but they sold for more in the “extremely hot markets” of the time. The Iranian pieces in particular are priced lower, which, “reflect[s] the country’s poor economic climate and lack of appetite among its collectors.”

The works will be sold in London at Bonhams’s Islamic and Indian Art Including Sikh Treasures and Arts of the Punjab sale on October 23; Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art & Art of Pakistan sale on October 24; and Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern Art sale, also on October 24.

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