The struggling private equity firm, Abraaj Group, is auctioning off its private art collection. All of the works in its collections are in the process of being sold at auctions in London this month, with some works being estimated to sell at less than ten percent of what the purported owner, Arif Naqvi, authorized to be paid for them.
Abraaj and Naqvi were renowned collectors of art. At its height, Abraaj was reported to have managed $14 billion USD in assets, and it served as Art Dubai’s sponsor for the decade between 2008 and 2018. The firm went into liquidation early this year, and its current administrators, Deloitte and Price Waterhouse Coopers, has opted to sell off its art collection.
The firm – at one time considered to have laid the foundation for corporate patronage of the arts in the Middle East region – had to close its annual Abraaj Group Art Prize in addition to ending its sponsorship of Art Dubai.
The prize started in 2009 as a decade-long project to help support emergent artists in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia. As a result of the firm’s endowment, over the course of the past ten years, 30 works were created both by winning and shortlisted artists. Winners were awarded $100,000 USD for their endeavours, while shortlisted individuals still received $10,000 USD.
As the firm put an end to its prize, it released a brochure noting the accomplishments of its patronage. “We set out the prize to be a vehicle for change and leave a lasting impression – for the 44 artists, 14 curators, and global art community – and we are proud to have played a catalytic role.”
The equity firm started its rapid collapse earlier this year when it heard allegations of misuse of its investors’ funds.
The firm’s works will appear at Bonhams at auction in London on October 23 and 24 at three different auctions. Some of the Abraaj collection of Arab, Iranian, and Southeast Asian art has already sold at other auctions.
Christie’s will also be offering some works from Naqvi’s private collection. Naqvi stepped down from the firm last February amidst its collapse.
According to Nima Sagharchi, the director of Middle Eastern, Islamic and South Asian art at Bonhams, “The Abraaj art collection is one of the most widely published and widely exhibited collections covering the categories [of Middle Eastern, Islamic and South Asian art].”
The collection includes works by Parviz Tanavoli and Mohammad Ehsai. He is the Merciful, by Ehsai, sold for $1.1 million USD at Christie’s in Dubai in 2008. At Bonhams this October, the work is estimated to sell for less than a tenth of that value.