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Under the Hammer

Bidding Basics
Bonhams’ Nima Sagharchi shares some tips for budding collectors

Bonhams held a Middle East-focused sale in London on October 7, under the theme of “A Century of Iraqi Art Part II/Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern Art.” The auction yielded results of £1,677,200. Iranian painter Manoucher Yektai’s haunting Portrait of Iris Clert was the afternoon’s top highlight, selling at a price of £182,500, with an estimate of £50,000 to £70,000. Other standouts included Ismael Fattah’s Homage to Jewad Selim, and works by Mahmoud Moussa, Charles Hossein Zenderoudi and Paul Guiragossian.

Selections asked Nima Sagharchi, a specialist in modern and contemporary Middle Eastern Art at the auction house, to offer a few bidding pointers:

Danna Lorch: What is your advice for a young collector who would like to make a first acquisition at auction?
Nima Sagharchi: Buy with your heart — and your head. Find an area that interests you, decide a budget in advance and stick to it. We always suggest that people should collect things they really like because, while everyone would like their items to increase in value, there is never any guarantee that this will happen. Collecting is subject to changes in fashion and appeal, like anything else, so buying just for investment is best left to professionals and we certainly don’t recommend it. For that reason our specialists do not offer investment advice.

DL: What is the best way to research the true market value of a lot and prepare to make a bid at an auction?
NS: There’s a wealth of information online, which should be a good starting point, but talk to dealers in the subject area and also to specialists in auction houses. Bonhams is particularly keen to help people new to collecting — as well as more long-standing collectors, of course.

Mahmoud Moussa (Egypt, 1913-2003) The Worker, courtesy of Bonhams

Mahmoud Moussa (Egypt, 1913-2003) The Worker, courtesy of Bonhams

DL: Is there any advantage or disadvantage to bidding over the phone or enlisting an art consultant to bid on your behalf?
NS: How to bid is very much a matter of personal preference and is often dictated by time. Some people like to be present in the auction room, but busy people cannot always do that and will bid by phone instead or increasingly by internet, which can be done anywhere at any time. There is no particular advantage in using an art consultant to bid.

DL: From an investment perspective, how wise is it to continue bidding well past a lot’s estimate?
NS: Estimates are simply guidelines based on history and an assessment of current demand. The price paid on the day will depend on how many people want to acquire the object and how far they are prepared to go to secure it. These will be personal decisions.

Ismael Fattah (Iraq, 1934-2004), Homage to Jewad Selim,  courtesy of Bonhams

Ismael Fattah (Iraq, 1934-2004), Homage to Jewad Selim, courtesy of Bonhams

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Danna Lorch is a Dubai-based writer focusing on art and pop culture from the Middle East. She blogs at ‘Danna Writes’ and serves as Contributor to ArtSlant. Recent publications include The National, Jadaliyya, Contemporary Practices, Canvas, and VOGUE (India). Danna holds a graduate degree in Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard University.

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