A new venture based in Doha, AlBahie seeks to become the premier auction house in the region

AlBahie, Qatar’s first homegrown auction house, has opened its doors at a permanent location in Doha’s Katara Cultural Village. While prestigious international auction houses including Sotheby’s have run sales in Doha since 2009, proving the collector base is there, AlBahie is a purely local venture. The brainchild of Ashraf A.R. Abu Issa, chairman of Abu Issa Holding, in partnership with Sheikh Abdulrahman Hamad Jassim Al-Thani, the house will focus on art and antiquities that have a connection to the Arab world. AlBahie will hold its first sale of Islamic and Orientalist Art on April 5.

Ottoman carpet

Ottoman carpet

Selections spoke about the auction house’s plans with AlBahie’s director Corinne Lefebvre.

Danna Lorch: Doha has already proven to have quite a rich collector base when it comes to auctions. Why did you decide that a locally owned and operated house was needed, and what gap do you believe AlBahie fills?
Corinne Lefebvre: In 2016 alone, we will offer a varied calendar of of regularly held auctions including Islamic and Orientalist Art, Jewellery and Watches, Qatari Photography, Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern Art, Decorative Arts and Furniture and Luxury Handbags. As we have a permanent location, we can offer a wider range of sales at different price points for a larger number of collectors.

DL: You specialise in Orientalist art. It’s quite interesting to see work that was originally created by Europeans about romantic perceptions of the region ultimately returning to private Arab collections. Is this a growing trend?
CL: Indeed, our first auction will have a strong focus on Orientalist art. As you mention, it was conceived by artists looking into Arab culture, but who were not necessarily part of it. Orientalist art has an aesthetic and a beauty that connects with the culture in Qatar and the wider region.

DL: AlBahie has chosen to live stream auctions. Does this mean that most of your buyers are living outside of Qatar?
CL: While we conceive our auctions keeping the Qatari collector in mind, our goal is to be the premier auction house for the region. Why not also reach an international audience? The internet opens up many possibilities.

DL: What are some of the high points that collectors can look forward to at your inaugural sale on April 5?
CL: Our first auction is focused on Islamic and Orientalist Art and will feature sections on the Qur’an and rare manuscripts, Orientalist painting and sculpture, enamel, metalwork, furniture and a large selection of arms and armour.

A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, The One-on-One Issue #35, pages 136-137.