How to Start Collecting Middle Eastern Art

By Gareth Rees
11 September 2018
Hassan Hajjaj

Hassan Hajjaj

Now is the time, says Michael Jeha, Managing Director and Deputy Chairman for Christie’s Middle East.

“There are no rules about investment,” wrote Charles Saatchi, owner of Saatchi Gallery and perhaps the world’s most famous art collector, in his 2012 book My Name Is Charles Saatchi And I Am An Artoholic. “Sharks can be good. Artist’s dung can be good. Oil on canvas can be good. There’s a squad of conservators out there to look after anything an artist decides is art.”

Saatchi made a name for himself in the late 1980s and 1990s supporting the work of a group of former students of Goldsmiths College and the Royal College of Art – most notably Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin – who came to be known as the YBAs (Young British Artists). Saatchi didn’t follow the rules, he just looked around.

For those living in the Middle East, now is the time to do the same. “Middle Eastern art is still undervalued relative to other contemporary art categories,” says Michael Jeha, Managing Director and Deputy Chairman for Christie’s Middle East.

Interest from collectors in the region has been increasing for some time. Now, with Christie’s Middle East focused on providing established artists with a global platform, the world is starting to take notice. “The quality of art from the region is very strong and interest in Middle Eastern art is starting to internationalise and institutionalise,” says Jeha. “We are also seeing more museums globally starting to assemble collections of Middle Eastern art.”

Christie’s Middle East focuses on providing established artists from the Middle East with a global platform. So Jeha is perfectly placed to advise you on starting your collection.

As for the Middle East’s answer to Damian Hirst? “There are so many [talented artists], it wouldn’t be fair to single anyone out,” says Jeha.

So who to collect is down to you. Here are Jeha’s five tips for how to collect:

1. WHY DO YOU WANT TO START COLLECTING ART?
“The first step is to determine what your motivation is for collecting art. Is it for passionate or aesthetic reasons, patriotic reasons or investment purposes? People can collect art for many reasons – at Christie’s we advise people to collect for passionate reasons.”

2.  DETERMINE YOUR STRATEGY
“Will you focus on established artists, emerging artists or a combination of the two?”

3. WHO DO YOU WANT TO COLLECT?
“Identify which artists and nationality of artists you will be seeking to acquire.”

4. DO YOUR HOMEWORK
“Always seek advice and make an informed decision. Go online, research an artist, look at their track record, their past body of work, and speak to specialists at auction houses, gallerists, other collectors.”

5.  TRUST YOUR INSTINCT
“First and foremost, buy what you love and what catches your eye.”