DR. BASEL DALLOUL
The Dalloul family has had a relationship with Christie’s for several decades. I often heard my parents talking about going to Christie’s, Sotheby’s or Bonhams, to bid on a work or two, while we lived in London, and I was in high school. My direct contact with Christie’s came much later, when this venerable institution decided to open its Middle East offices in Dubai over a decade and a half ago. It was Christie’s presence in Dubai, which put Middle Eastern art in general, and Arab art in particular, on the global stage.
Fast forward to 2022, my late father had just passed away in 2021, and it was time for me to be completely responsible not only for the Dalloul Art Foundation, but also for its acquisition strategy moving forward. My priorities were threefold: First I had to have a clear strategy for the collection. Second, I had to plug several glaring holes in the modern part of the collection. Finally, I had to dispel all the rumours going around about what the family would do with this massive collection.
My strategy was not dissimilar from that of my late parents, except that my focus is on quality and not quantity. My late father was a fan of both. After I had spent a couple of years acquiring works by important artists who were missing from the collection, it was time to reshuffle the massive collection of art from the Arab world and pare it down. At this point, I had strong relationships of my own with the major auction houses, but I was intrigued by the new strategy of one, Christie’s. At this point, Christie’s had
appointed a new and very charismatic global CEO, Guillaume Cerutti, and he in turn appointed Dr. Ridha Moumni as Deputy Chairman of their Middle East department. What was intriguing to me was that unlike his predecessor, who came from a financial background, Dr. Moumni was a first-class academic with a deep understanding of art from the Arab world. He and I became fast friends over the period of about a year, before I decided to go with Christie’s for the collection’s first major sale.
My friend Ridha insisted that this sale showcase the strength and breadth of the collection. While he has a small army working for him, my interaction with his venerable institution was mainly with him and his head of sales and specialist, Marie-Claire Thijsen. Over the period of almost a year, together with the foundation’s amazing Head of Research, Wafa Roz, we identified a few hundred pieces, which we earmarked to de-access from the collection. From this group we collectively selected the initial 48 for this first major sale. To say the process was easy, would be a lie, but working with both Ridha and MarieClaire made this difficult process very pleasant. What gave me even more confidence in Christie’s, was Guillaume Cerutti’s attention to the importance of this sale. Christie’s is putting its full weight behind our sale, aptly titled: Marhala, which in Arabic means a period, usually associated with a journey, in this case mine and the collection’s pivot point to a modified strategy.