The Growth of the Middle Eastern Art Market

The Growth of the Middle Eastern Art Market
Shafic Abboud(Lebanon, 1926-2004)- Villa des Iris. Source -Bonham's.

The Middle Eastern art market has consistently shown solid results, driven by increasing demand from a broader base of collectors across various geographical locations. This growth is further bolstered by international institutional acquisitions and heightened government spending on art and culture in the Gulf region. This trend is a testament to the growing prominence and appeal of Middle Eastern art on the global stage. With insights and contributions from Christiane Ashkar, Founder of Christiane Ashkar Art Consultancy, we will explore the specifics of the Middle Eastern art market's recent achievements and why it represents a golden opportunity for buyers.

Table of Contents

  1. Impressive Market Performance
  2. Exceptional Auction Achievements in 2023
  3. Innovation in Artistic Styles
  4. Global Recognition and Institutional Support
  5. Pioneering Artists
  6. Cultural and Historical Significance
  7. Prospects for Future Growth
  8. Conclusion

Impressive Market Performance

The year 2023 was a landmark for Middle Eastern art at major auction houses. Christie’s November sale in London alone achieved a combined total of £5,127,902 across two live auctions of modern and contemporary Middle Eastern art. This level of success, mirrored in other auction houses, points towards a market that not only grew but also stabilized, offering promising avenues for investment.

Exceptional Auction Achievements in 2023

The year 2023 marked significant achievements for Middle Eastern art at Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Bonhams. These auction houses reported impressive sales figures, showcasing the growing demand and financial strength of the Middle Eastern art market.

Christie’s Auction Highlights (London, November 2023):

MAHMOUD SAÏD (1897, ALEXANDRIA - 1964, ALEXANDRIA)Fille à l’imprimé (Girl in a printed dress). Source - Christie's.
  • Combined total: £5,127,902 across two live auctions of modern and contemporary Middle Eastern art.
  • Dalloul Art Collection: £3,064,320 for 48 masterpieces.
  • Egyptian modernist Mahmoud Saïd’s 'Fille à l’imprimé' (Girl in a Printed Dress), 1938: Sold for £567,000.
  • Notable record prices for Palestinian contemporary artists Samia Halaby and Kamal Boulata, Syrian contemporary artist Marwan, and Iraqi modernist Faeq Hassan.

Sotheby’s Notable Sales 2023 (20th Century Middle Eastern Art):

Samia Halaby, Seventh Cross No. 229. Source - Sotheby's.
  • Total: £4.8 million, the highest since the sale's introduction in 2016.
  • Record for Saudi modern artist Mohammed Al Saleem’s untitled work (1986): £889,000.
  • Saudi modern artist Abdul Jabbar Al Yahya’s ‘Artist 2’: Sold for £279,400.
  • Lebanese contemporary artist Hugette Caland’s painting (1980): £444,500.
  • Palestinian contemporary artist Samia Halaby’s ‘Seventh Cross No. 229’: £381,000.

Bonhams Significant Sales (2023):

Shafic Abboud(Lebanon, 1926-2004)- Villa des Iris. Source -Bonham's.
  • London, May: Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern Art Sale topped by Kadhim Hayder’s ‘Al Qamar’ (1966) at £635,400 and Faeq Hassan’s ‘Baghdadiyat’ (circa 1950s) at £190,000. Total sale of £3,297,242 with 87% sold by lot.
  • Paris, July: Le Paris du Monde Arabe sale featured Turkish modernist Fahr-el-Nissa Zeid’s ‘Etoile Filante’ (Falling Star) selling for €229,000. Total sale of €577,010 with 65% sold by lot.
  • London, November: Sale topped by Lebanese modernist Shafic Abboud’s ‘Villa des Iris’ at £381,400. Total sale of £2,772,622.

Innovation in Artistic Styles

Mohammed Al Saleem (Saudi Arabian, 1939-1997) - Manzar Tabi’i’ (Landscape). Source - Christie's.

The market is witnessing the emergence of unique artistic styles that are culturally rooted and globally appealing. Mohammed Al Saleem’s ‘Horizonism’ style, inspired by the Riyadh skyline, is a prime example. This innovation in art forms demonstrates the region's evolving artistic narrative, offering fresh perspectives and investment opportunities.

Global Recognition and Institutional Support

The growing international interest in Middle Eastern art is evident from Christie’s collaboration with the UAE's Ministry of Culture and Youth and the Barjeel Art Foundation. These partnerships aim to showcase Middle Eastern art on a global stage, enhancing its appeal and market value, thereby broadening investment opportunities.

Pioneering Artists

AbdulJabbar Al Yahya, Artist 2. Source - Sotheby's.

The Middle Eastern art market provides investment options across the spectrum. Abdul Jabbar Al Yahya’s work, for instance, set a benchmark price of £279,400 at Sotheby’s, illustrating the potential of investing in pioneering artists. He played a pivotal role in defining the course of modern Saudi Arabian art. Al Yahya was among the first aspiring artists to venture beyond the Kingdom to pursue an international career. This marked Yahya’s first introduction to the auction scene.

Cultural and Historical Significance

The art from this region is steeped in rich cultural and historical contexts, adding layers of value beyond the financial. This intrinsic worth, combined with artistic merit, enhances the appeal of Middle Eastern art as a multifaceted investment.

Prospects for Future Growth

With continuous record-breaking sales and escalating international interest, the Middle Eastern art market is poised for sustained growth. For investors, this represents an opportunity to be part of a flourishing and culturally rich investment landscape.


The Middle Eastern art market, characterized by its robust performance, varied artistic offerings, and growing global recognition and demand, emerges as a compelling sector for investment. The impressive auction results and the widening collector base are indicative of a market that not only thrived but also holds great potential. For investors looking to diversify into a market that offers both cultural depth and financial promise, Middle Eastern art presents a unique and rewarding opportunity.

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