Works by modern Arab artists form the bulk of the auction on Wednesday in Dubai, which also includes Indian, Iranian, Pakistani and Western artists.

 

The 128 lots on sale are priced at between $4,000 and $600,000, said Paul Hewitt, Christie's international business director, who thinks all will items sell despite some high prices.

 

"We believe that the time is right for an increase in value and of interest in Middle Eastern contemporary art," he said.

 

Affluent market

 

Hewitt said that there had been a 100% growth in the Indian and Chinese art markets; a sign that the Middle East art business scene could also blossom.

 

"The increasing affluence of the region means people are looking for alternative assets to put their money into"

Paul Hewitt, Christie's international business director

"The international awareness of what's going on in the Middle East [and] the economic development here means that we believe the time is right to bring Middle Eastern artists to the notice of the international market place," he said.

 

"The increasing affluence of the region means people are looking for alternative assets to put their money into and stocks and shares aren't something you can enjoy at the same time as investing in them."

 

Highlights of the sale include works by Egypt's Chant Avedissian, whose Arab pop culture paintings have been likened to Andy Warhol's, and a piece by Warhol entitled Double Mona Lisa.

 

Prominent artists

 

Prominent artists from Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya and Saudi Arabia feature in the sale.

 

Serenity by Paul Guiragossian
(pic: Christie's)

Dina Amin, Middle East art consultant for Christie's, said:

"We chose artists that are well known regionally and have a following in their local environments. 

 

"We just wanted to have a sort of blanket, so to speak, of the region."

 

The most expensive painting is by Indian artist Syed Haider Reza, at $400,000-$600,000.

 

Egyptian Ahmed Moustafa's huge, colourful calligraphy canvases are the dearest in the Middle East section, and could fetch up to $120,000.