Artfully Yours – Hala Al Khayat

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Art, in any form, brings about a wealth of emotions. With the UAE establishing itself as an art hub, we speak to the women behind the most prominent creative institutions to find out what art means to them

Hala Al Khayat,

Associate Director, Christie’s, Dubai.

I believe if you like something very passionately it is difficult to draw a distinctive line to demarcate between you and your professional life,” says Hala Al Khayat, Associate Director at Christie’s, Dubai.

Be it as an art consultant or a speaker on the history of Arab art and the Middle Eastern art market or consigning rare works of art, Hala enjoys contributing to the evolution of the emerging art scene in Dubai and the region.

A UAE resident for the last ten years and having witnessed the first launch of the Christie’s catalogue in 2005 she says, “I believe that has been a turning point for Middle Eastern Art.”

“Christie’s advent here put a spotlight on the rich, diverse and a 100-year-old art productions of the region. It placed the art work on an international platform,” she points out.

And her journey continues, from being mentored by Syrian artist Fateh Moudarres while studying Fine Arts to earning an MA in Design Studies from Central St Martin’s College of Art and Design, London. Hala today heads the sales and is the associate director of Christie’s Dubai.

Personally I thrive on reminding everyone that the Arab, Iranian and the Turkish worlds are not just about wars,” she says, “Among us, we have exceptional artists, creative minds, dreamers and thinkers who have lent their brush to produce fantastic work of art mirroring society at all times.”

She points at a Shafic Abboud painting (Lebanese, 1926 – 2004) from the 50s: “He worked on abstract art then, when this form of art was not visited in Europe. He evolved his art form and took it to the next level. Such progressive and out-of-the-box thinking existed since then in the Arab World. And it’s time everyone knows and accepts it,” she asserts.

Such progressive and out-of-the-box thinking existed since then in the Arab World. And it’s time everyone knows and accepts it,” she asserts. Such progressive and out-of-the-box thinking existed since then in the Arab World. And it’s time everyone knows and accepts it,” she asserts.

Hala stated that for the second time Christie’s will hold its spring sale season in March to coincide with Art Dubai and therewith offer the international collector base a wider overview of the Middle Eastern Art scene.

The sale includes one of the most iconic Middle Eastern images ever produced – Jamal Al Mahamel II or Camel of Burdens II – by the Palestinian artist Suleiman Mansour. The picture is estimated at $200,000 and $300,000 and part of the proceeds will benefit initiatives that support artists in the region.

She adds that this season Christie’s Dubai will present an exceptional sale bringing together some of the finest works of art from leading collections in each country of the region. Notably, Christie’s will offer 14 outstanding artists such as Paul Guiragossian, Farid Aouad, Aref Al Rayess and Ayman Baalbaki from the Mokbel Art Collection, one of the most prestigious collections of Modern and Contemporary Lebanese art.

Hala steered into the “journey to own art”. According to her, the art market spectrum ranges from pure collectors to pure speculators. She insists that, “Art is a better store of value than other luxury goods”. It can come as a gift or as inheritance. It could also be purchased for charity. Other motivations for collectors include patriotism (regional passion) and expectations of high financial returns. Art is also bought to indicate social status. Collectors’ circles, acquisitions committees and art patrons make the art market.

What should one look for when collecting? Hala simply puts it: “Elements include the artist, period, subject matter, medium, importance, rarity, condition and provenance.” “Buy what you love”, she advises. “Buy the best example you can reasonably afford”. She calls for familiarisation with the periods in which the art was made, the style in which it was done and also made a case for following Artnet or Artprice, which deals in art market information. She guides, “Authenticity is generally guaranteed at respectable galleries and major auction houses.”

One should keep track of activities in the region, at happenings in museums, have a close look at the content of biennials, visit art fairs and galleries and participate – even passively – at auctions.” In spite of being in Dubai for so many years Hala’s main concern has been Syrian Art and artists. “I’m documenting the work of Syrian Artist Louay Kayyali (1934 – 1978) in a catalogue resume.” With more than 60% of the work completed, Hala is confident to have it ready in another year and a half’s time.

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