It’s an emotional exploration of the art world: which are the most frequently asked questions when it comes to art? Artists, curators, gallerists, museum directors, art collectors and more give thoughtful and deeply personal answers to our queries, while shedding light on the contemporary art scene – and offering a glimpse into its future.

Ashkan Baghestani: There are many tools at our disposal – and in auction houses, the most importance is our expertise and in-house scientific analysis. You have to do your research thoroughly, talking to artist estates, external experts, sharing all of the available information.

Basel Dalloul: Well, there are many ways. If the artist is alive, you can simply ask them. If the artist is dead, then things become a bit more complicated, and it’s always good practice to take along someone who knows what they are doing. Tracking the provenance is important, catalogues the artwork appeared in can help, as well as artist archives if existing.

Michael Jeha: There are many considerations:
– Having an in-depth knowledge of the artist in question and having viewed
a large body of the artist’s work and technique
– Consulting outside experts on the artist
– Researching the work thoroughly, including looking at the provenance
and history of the artwork, where it was acquired from, obtaining invoices,
exhibition history, any literature that references the work, any photographic
evidence of the work, etc
– Passing a work through certain databases, which list stolen, lost and
copied works of art
– Undertaking scientific and laboratory analysis, which is becoming
increasingly sophisticated.

Collaborators’ Biographies

(from left to right)

Ashkan Baghestani, Sothebyís Head of Sale and Contemporary Arab and Iranian Art Specialist. Ashkan Baghestani joined Sotheby’s Middle East Department in 2012 focusing on the Contemporary Doha auctions and developing this increasingly important art platform, including the April 2013 Contemporary Art Doha sale which realised $15.2 million and established the highest price for an auction in the Middle East region, with records set for nine artists, including the record price for a living Arab artist, Chant Avedissian. His in-depth knowledge of the market for Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern and Iranian works, his fluency in Persian, French and English, and his contacts in the region have been invaluable in cultivating this important collecting field at Sotheby’s. He constantly travels across the Middle East region, participating in Sotheby’s numerous travelling exhibitions across the region such as Jeddah Art Week, Saudi Arabia and Dubai Art Week Travelling Exhibition, UAE.
Mr. Baghestani grew up in Geneva, Switzerland and has travelled extensively to study and work in Paris, New York and London. Before joining Sotheby’s in the summer of 2012, he studied Design and Management at Parson’s New School for Design, in the United States in 2009, earning a BBA Degree and followed later with a diploma in Middle Eastern Art from Sotheby’s Institute in 2011. He actively worked for the Jameel Prize at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Basel Dalloul founded the Dalloul Art Foundation in 2017 to manage and promote his father’s (Dr. Ramzi Dalloul) vast collection of modern and contemporary Arab art. At over 4,000 pieces it is the largest collection of its kind in private hands. The collection includes but is not limited to paintings, photography, sculpture, video and mixed media art. Dalloul has had a passion for art since he was very young, inspired by his mother and father, both of whom are also passionate about art in all its forms.

Michael Jeha is the managing director and deputy chairman of Christie’s Middle East. In his role as managing director of Christie’s Middle East, Jeha is responsible for implementing and executing the firm’s strategic and commercial vision for the region. Christie’s was the first international auction house to open an office in Dubai in 2005 and began holding bi-annual sales the following year. Under his management, Dubai has become a regular and important selling centre on the international auction calendar with the two annual auctions of Modern and Contemporary Arab, Iranian and Turkish Art, achieving sales of over $250 million. Jeha joined Christie’s in January 1999, exactly 20 years ago. Originally Lebanese, Jeha was born in London and studied at the City University Business School.

A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, Frequently Asked Questions in Art #48, page 109

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