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Christie´s London - Interview with Dina Amin


Marek Claassen and Dina Amin

This is an www.artfacts.net interview with Mrs Dina Amin. Dina Amin is the head of the morning session for contemporary art at Christie's, London in King Street.

AfN: Hello Mrs Amin.

Dina Amin: Hello.

AfN: In 2006 you were part of the first auctions for contemporary art in the Middle East as part of your role as art consultant for Christie's. What do you think, was it the right choice for Christie's to move into this region first?

Dina Amin: The Middle East is an exciting new selling site for Christie's. As the first international auction house to establish a permanent base in the Middle East in 2005, it quickly became evident that our clients wanted more from us; so in response we launched our first auction there in May 2006 of Modern and Contemporary Art which totalled $8,489,400. Our last sale which was in October 2007, was more finely tuned and focused primarily on contemporary Arab, Iranian and then the Western post-war contemporary. It was highly successful and totalled $15,235,725. Alongside this we held our inaugural Dubai sale of Contemporary Jewels and Watches in October 2007 which totalled $11,814,880, far exceeding expectations in terms of the prices achieved and the enormous enthusiasm from collectors in the region. Each sale has grown significantly with Dubai sales in 2007 totalling £26.2 million/$51.1 million, up 491% over 2006 in £ and 508% in $.

AfN: So the demand is rising for contemporary art?

Dina Amin: Exactly.

AfN: From local collectors?

Dina Amin: Dubai is truly an international sale venue. There are local collectors from around the Middle East and throughout the region; and then also, it really is international: There are people participating from South America, Asia, everywhere.

AfN: What is your background in Arab contemporary art?

Dina Amin: My field is more the Western post-war contemporary art. My link to the region is that it is where I am from. I am from Saudi Arabia. I do what I can to be of assistance to Christie's and in our activities there.

AfN: Normally I don't like to emphasize on regions when talking about artists. But since the end of the cold war and the start of globalization we have seen Russian art, Chinese art, now the big collectors try to really emphasize on Indian Art. Do you think that these concepts will work out on a long term? Will we see a boom in Indian, Arab, Latin or even African art?

Dina Amin: Contemporary Indian art and Chinese art has grown significantly in the last ten years. What started out as a field that maybe had more of a local following, now is a huge international market. I think we are seeing the same thing with the contemporary Arab and Iranian art. The first sale that we had in Dubai was really the first time that a number of these artists were seen on an international level whereas primarily they had been traded locally through galleries within their own regions. So it really is an exciting time in the international art market with new artists coming on to the scene on a regular basis and generating new followings around the world.

AfN: So will these names related to regions evolve into names that we all know? Will we be very soon familiar with Arab artists?

Dina Amin: I think so. Even just looking at the last sale in Dubai, the works were consigned by Western collectors, by people outside of the region. One of the consigners that was discussed mostly in the last sale was the cultural attaché to Syria of the time, from the Kennedy family had lived in Syria, collected many of these works, and then took them back with him to America, and eventually resold them at Christie's in October. So slowly but surely, we are seeing a growing interest in the region and the artists that are coming out of the region. For a long time they have been underrepresented. There are some really great things.

AfN: Yes, in this case, the globalization is a kind of boon...

Dina Amin: Exactly. It is really great to be exposed to these different artists, and to what they are producing, and also to see how so much of the same ideas are being incorporated into art works in completely different regions but at the same time; people are addressing the same subjects, same themes, having the same discourse, and treating that in their art work - and it is all at the same time but in totally different areas.

AfN: Christie's International Chief Executive Officer Edward Dolman said in a Bloomberg interview that the February auctions in London are valued at 38 percent more than last year's, indicating continuing growth in art sales. Both Christie's and Sotheby's sold 2007 for around $ 6 billion. But a prolonged decline in the world's stock markets or an unforeseen crisis could reduce the money available to buy art? What comes up must come down. Are you prepared for a change in the market situation?

Dina Amin: Our sales thus far in 2008 bode well for strong and steady art market in the near future. Traditionally, there is only limited correlation between the stock markets and the art markets. We have amazingly strong sales across-the-board in February 2008. We have four Post War & Contemporary Art sales in London in February, two day sales and morning session, afternoon session, the collection of Kitaj, and then also our evening sale. For these sales we have great quality works, and these great quality works will speak for themselves.

AfN: There is still enough available... and clients as well?

Dina Amin: Whenever there is something that is really just a great quality work and a fabulous piece from the artist's work, and of the right period, etc. the buyers will want to acquire it. While it is certainly an appealing time to consign works of art as prices are strong, the quality and rate of supply of important works of art to the market continue to make it a highly appealing time for buyers to participate in the market.

AfN: It is strange. Last year, someone from Christie's said to us that the number of billionaires in the last - I think - five years has risen above 33% throughout the world. But these are not your only clients?

Dina Amin: No, of course not. The sales as a whole have a tremendous range in price level, beginning at around 2000£ in the day sales, and of course going up to sky's limit in the evening sales. Different works for different people at different levels and different collectors - really something for everyone.

AfN: Talking about Auction House turnover. I want to coin: Poly Auctions. According to the Daily Telegraph: The biggest surprise is the extent of auction sales within mainland China, which became the fourth largest art market in the world, surpassing Germany and Switzerland with a share of five per cent (the US has 46 per cent, Britain 27 per cent and France six per cent). Has Poly Auctions the potential to rise to a third rival with the size of yours?

Dina Amin: Christie's third year of sales in Beijing with licensing partner Forever auction house realised an annual total of RMB106.5 million/£7.4 million/US$13.9 million. Christie's has a leading presence in Hong Kong with sales alone in 2007 totalling £234 million/$473 million, up 23% in £ and 33% in $ over 2006. Hong Kong was the third highest selling site at Christie's following New York and London.

AfN: There is another rivalry I am interested in. Is that between the Auction Houses and the galleries. In the VIP Lounge of this years London Art Fair I have seen a Gilbert & George exhibition of very nice early works on paper organized by Bloomsbury Auctions. This was very asthonishing for me as it was the first time that I have seen such a presence of an Auction House at an art fair. Could you imagine further events on other fairs?

Dina Amin: The art market is comprised of so many different things. As an international market, people are looking in a variety of different places for different things, and together we all bring different things to the table.

AfN: In the Art Newspaper I read that Haunch of Venison, a gallery Christie's owns, will move into a Building of the Royal Academy. And somewhere else I heared that a major fair (maybe Basel) said it would never invite a gallery owned by an Auction House. What do you think of the fuss? Are galleries and Auction Houses a threat for each other?

Dina Amin: In 2007, Christie's announced a major initiative to enter the primary art market and develop its private post-war and contemporary art sales business worldwide. With this initiative, Christie's acquired Haunch of Venison, the renowned contemporary art gallery with exhibition spaces in London, Zurich and Berlin and a new Haunch of Venison Gallery to be opened in Manhattan in 2008. By acquiring the celebrated contemporary gallery, Christie's are meeting clients' needs in a comprehensive manner. As part of Christie's International, Haunch of Venison's internationally acclaimed artists and our expanded private sales business will enhance and strengthen our position as the world's leading art business in a way that is complementary to the secondary auction market

AfN: I have seen that Francis Bacon has risen in the last - I think - three years tremendously, since 2004. And I have seen shows at Gagosian Gallery. Is the fact that Gagosian or other renowned galleries are presenting Francis Bacon-shows affecting the auction houses? Does it somehow work together?

Dina Amin: We all recognize that there are artists out there that are generally undervalued, underrepresented and very important within their own rights. As the market grows, so too does the awareness of these artists and the importance of their place in art history.

Francis Bacon is one of the most important figures in contemporary art and we are now seeing such tremendous growth in particular areas of the market - through Warhol, Basquiat or Bacon - that eventually people turn to other artists that maybe are underrepresented and undervalued. It truly is an evolving market. There are so many different artists, and we all are looking for fabulous works by fabulous artists. So at the end we arrive at the same things.

AfN: I want to talk about the February Auctions that will be held here in London. First question: This year, for the first time, Sotheby's and Christie's will be holding their February contemporary auctions in London during different weeks. Phillips de Pury, which initially planned its London contemporary sale at the start of the month with Christie's, is now holding it a day after Sotheby's. Why do the three major player separate their sales shows?

Dina Amin: Our clients are pleased with the existing dates, long established on the international auction calendar. Held in 2 newly refurbished viewing spaces, the week of Impressionist & Modern Art, Post War & Contemporary Art sales provides the greatest convenience and service to clients, many who travel to London especially to attend the sales.

AfN: I was thinking that they maybe wanted to share the same audience; and if everything happens at the same time, this will not be possible.

Dina Amin: So many people are travel especially to London for that week of sales. For us, our clients are pleased with the dates and it was the right thing to keep it all together.

AfN: The second question is about the guarantee for Francis Bacon's 1969 painting "Study of a Nude With Figure in a Mirror", the star lot of the Feb. 27 Sotheby's contemporary art sale in London, carries a guaranteed minimum price to the seller of about 18 million pounds. The guarantee, was a record for London. Bacon's "Triptych 1974-77" which you will be offering on Feb. 6 and is estimated at some 25 million pounds, does not carry a guarantee. Why does Sotheby's need guarantees and you don't?

Dina Amin: I cannot comment on Sotheby's decision. For Christie's, we are the world's leading art business and we have had great success offering works by Francis Bacon. The owners felt it was the right time to sell and they are confident in our abilities and the market. Christie's offers consignors a tremendous depth and breadth of experience in selling works, from authentication, cataloguing, promotion, shipping and insuring, to highly sophisticated financial services, of which guarantees are just one aspect.

AfN: What are your personal expectations for 2008?

Dina Amin: I think it is going to be a good year. Looking back at the end of 2007, our Impressionist, Modern, post-war and contemporary weeks in New York were amazingly strong. We realized nearly a billion dollars of sales in that week at Christie's. We are now leading into February where we have the strongest sales we have seen so far in London in this category. Our sales thus far in 2008 bode well for strong and steady art market in the near future. Of course, time will tell, and we talk after the sales but so far so good. We are very positive.

AfN: Thank you, Mrs. Amin

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