Last night I stood in the back of The Young Collectors Auction scribbling thoughts into a hot pink notebook that was tiny enough to fit inside my evening bag. I didn’t mind that I may have looked crazy. I was terrified that the auctioneer, Hisham Samawi, would mistake the movement of my pen for bidding.
The gallery is a vast space and must have had 100 chairs set up in neat rows, yet there were easily another 150 people standing packed into the room. Much of Dubai’s young professional community had turned up to bid on an impressive catalogue of contemporary Arab art. Men in button down shirts and women with Prada handbags tried to look nonchalant as they raised numbered paddles and the prices climbed. Ayyam staff members manned phone banks at nearby tables, connected to collectors who preferred to remain anonymous.
As usual, there was a smidge too much military-inspired art on hand for my liking. However, I would have far preferred to snap up the untitled piece by Safwan Dahoul to the car I am in real need of buying these days. Good thing I left my credit card at home! I was happy to discover street artist Shaweesh, whose ‘United Nations (Yoda & King Faisal)’ sold for exponentially more than its estimated price. It was a bit of a poker game and a bit of an ego brawl to see who would call themselves “out” when the prices got too hot to handle, and who would end up taking a piece of art and a good story home at the end of the night.
Later on I bumped into Ayyam artists (and all around funny guys) Tammam Azzam and Ammar Al Beik who had noteworthy pieces being auctioned off inside and were chain smoking in the alley. Tammam’s ‘Freedom Graffiti,’ a play on Klimt’s kiss centered on the Syrian Revolution had made international headlines a few months back. I asked them if they were avoiding watching because they were sad to part with their work, but they only laughed and then they admitted to no sentimentality, to looking straight ahead at what they are going to produce next.
Ayyam Gallery regularly holds Young Collectors Auctions at its Alserkal Avenue location in Dubai