Islamic Art Market Makes Miraculous Recovery
(Or Does It?)
What am I on about? Georgina Adam has the lowdown:
How can a collection of Islamic art valued at £500m ($850m) a year ago be worth £4.5bn ($9bn) this year? The Sunday Times estimates the holdings of the Jewish-Iranian property mogul David Khalili at a “tentative £4.5bn” ($9bn), in its 2007 Rich List, published last month (see below). Dr Khalili is now Britain’s fifth richest man, says the newspaper, following its “revaluation” of his Islamic art. Dr Khalili was in 99th place in the 2006 list, with a fortune of £610m ($1.16bn). This year, The Sunday Times estimates he is worth £5.8bn ($11.6bn).Islamic art has not been keeping pace with other sections because of a scandal that landed Sheikh Saud Al-Thani of Qatar in legal hotwater:
The world's biggest art collector, Sheikh Saud Al Thani of Qatar, who has spent hundreds of millions of pounds during the last decade buying some of the most important works, has been placed under house arrest after being abruptly removed as head of his country's national council for culture.As I noted in this blog post back in August 2005 (I've been doing this that long???) this scandal effectively caused the Islamic art market to crumble. So this latest vaulation is, to my mind, rather incredible. In fact, the Times has already, sort of, admitted they made a mistake here:
According to a report today on the internet site of The Art Newspaper, Sheikh Saud, whose collections include millions of pounds' worth of British art, has been held incommunicado since the end of February on the orders of his cousin, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who has asked Qatari authorities to investigate his cousin's acquisitions.
News of his arrest has astonished the international art scene, where Sheikh Saud had a reputation for paying as much as 113 times the estimated price for items he particularly wanted. [emphasis mine]
Philip Beresford, the editor of the Rich List, said: “Talking to various art people and Islamic scholars, the view was that the collection has huge potential value. In retrospect I will almost certainly cut it back next year as any price would be far less if the market was flooded with the giant collection. This will bring it into line with the other art fortunes of the old aristocracy.” [emphasis mine]Khalili's people are standing by the vaulation, mind you (and why wouldn't they?):
Dr Khalili’s PR, Sue Bond, said that: “We never discuss the value of the collection,” but suggested that The Sunday Times valuation is accurate. “The newspaper clearly did its research,” she added.But as Georgina writes, there's little market evidence to support this hike, and actually a bit that disputes it:
This month the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney is showing “Treasures from the Nasser D. Khalili Collection” (22 June-23 September). We understand that this has been insured for £400m. As this is the cream of the collection, it is hard to see where the extra £4bn comes from.What could, conceiveably, account for the extra £4bn is the possibility that one of the, as Adam calls them, "Middle Eastern countries ... engaged in a frenetic rush to create museums" might simply buy the collection outright, giving them an instant world-class collection. There are also rumors that Khalili is negotiating to sell part of his collection to the planned branch of the Louvre in Abu Dhabi, but Khalili denies that.
So what does he have in this controversially appraised collection? The Art Newspaper reports:
The star holding in the collection, the Khalili portion of the fabled manuscript of Jami’ al-Tawarikh, the “universal history” of Rashid al-Din, produced in Tabriz (today in Iran) in 1314, is of huge significance [see image above (I'm assuming this is from the portion owned by Kahlili, but I'm not entirely sure it's not from the Edinburgh portion): Pursuit Scene from the Battle of Badr, Jami' al-Tawarikh ('Universal History' of Rashid al-din). Rashidiyya, 1314. Hazine 1653, folio 165b.] The other portion is in the University Library, Edinburgh. It is considered the finest medieval manuscript ever produced in East or West, and is reportedly the most expensive ever sold, although the price has never been revealed. This, according to one scholar, could be worth well over £4.5m ($8m). But many of the objects in the collection—which includes 8,000 coins—could be worth less than £100,000 each.Of course, I would love to believe such a recovery were possible. I'm thrilled to think Islamic art is on the rebound and will come back stronger than ever, but there's an important difference between actual demand (as we saw with the Contemporary art auctions recently) and potential demand. As evidenced by the value placed on the bulk of the collection heading for Australia at £400m, it honestly seems unlikely to me that anyone would tack on an additional £4bn just to get the complete collection. I can't believe that's not a good dose of wishful thinking on someone's part.
Labels: art market