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28 November 2023

It started with the Big Bang

By Reena Amos Dyes


If you are an art or antiques collector and cannot stop yourself from snapping up exquisite jewellery, paintings and watches at auctions, then you are in for a treat. You must have already read in the columns of Emirates Business that Bonhams, one of the oldest and largest international fine art auction houses in the world, will hold its first public sale in the Middle East. The firm is hosting the event at the Royal Mirage on March 3 and 4. And collectors of jewellery, paintings and watches from around the region – and beyond – are expected at the sale.


Matthew Girling, CEO of Bonhams for Europe and the Middle East, said: “The auction is open to all and in the next few days people will be able to view the catalogue of all articles on offer on the internet. They will also be able to bid via the internet and the telephone, as well as at the venue in Dubai.”


One of the finest pieces of jewellery on offer is an emerald and diamond ring designed by Mourad Hatik. The central sugarloaf cabochon emerald ring is 35.34 carats and is surrounded by a bezel set with brilliant-cut diamonds and shoulders set with pear, marquise and brilliant-cut diamonds.


The diamonds weigh approximately 5.60 carats. The ring with the maker’s mark is expected to fetch upwards of Dh1.84 million at the auction and it is accompanied by a Gübelin certificate stating that the emerald was found to be of Colombian origin, with indications of minor clarity enhancement.


Mourad Hatik’s love affair with fine jewellery began wheh he was a child; his father was a dealer in antique French furniture, paintings and jewellery. Even though Hatik began his career as a banker in Switzerland, he established his own gems and jewellery business in 1975. After 30 years of collecting and studying gems and establishing a name for himself as a connoisseur, he started creating jewellery under his own name.


In the contemporary Arab art selection on offer, the painting to watch out for is by Egyptian artist Ahmed Moustafa, titled The Transcendental Mansions of the Moon, which is expected to fetch Dh1.7m. Ahmed Moustafa is known for the fusion of classical European painting techniques and the exacting discipline of Islamic calligraphy. His paintings can be found in The British Museum, the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, The Museum of Modern Arts in Alexandria, Egypt, The National Museum of Scotland, The St Mungo Museum for Religious Art and Life in Glasgow, and at The Pontificia Universitas Gregoriana at The Vatican.


In the Indian art section Francis Newton Souza’s painting, The Elder, is expected to sell for about Dh1.1m. Souza’s paintings are inspired by the folk art of his native Goa, the paintings of the Renaissance, the religious fervour of the Catholic Church, the landscapes of the 18th and 19th century Europe and modern contemporary art. His work has been exhibited in London’s Gallery One, the Gallery Creuze in Paris, at Arts 38 in London and at the Bose Pacia Modern in New York. His paintings can also be found at the Tate Gallery in London, and the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi.


In the watch segment, it is a Hublot that is worth looking out for. Named the Big Bang, it is a rare 18-carat rose gold and ceramic chronograph wristwatch with a platinum and 48 diamond-set bezel. The Big Bang has a 27-jewel automatic chronograph movement with pierced rotor, white dial with faceted applied rose gold numerals, subsidiary dials for running seconds, 30 minute and 12 hour recording, date aperture between four and five and is encased in a polished and brushed finished rose gold case. This watch – fitted with an 18 carat rose gold and steel clasp – is expected to fetch around Dh110,184 at the auction.


But why did it take Bonhams, which has been around since 1793, so long to come to the Middle East? According to Girling: “The UAE is a young country and earlier, the people who were working here invested back home. But now, things have changed and people who work here see their future here, so they invest here as well. Also, the government is supporting art and cultural activities. So we feel that we have entered the region at the right time.”