DUBAI: The Riyadh International Book Fair returns from Sept. 29 to Oct. 8 presenting some of the most prominent Arab and international publishing houses and institutions. Considered a major cultural event, this year marks greater international participation, notably from Sotheby’s auction house for the first time, in partnership with the Saudi Ministry of Culture.
The auction house’s highlights include a rare album of photographs depicting Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh on their royal visit to Saudi Arabia in 1979 — including their welcome at Riyadh’s airport by King Khalid. There is a museum-quality World Globe dating to 1840. The Victorian piece belonged to Oxford University. It shows Makkah, Madinah and the port of Jeddah.
In addition, an Ottoman carpet once belonging to the great traveler Gertrude Bell, gifted to her by King Faisal I of Iraq is on display. There is also a photorealist painting of a falcon by Nicholas Manning, marking, according to the auction house, the first edition of the finest work on falconry that has ever been produced.
Everything displayed will be on sale.
“Creativity is at the heart of Saudi Arabia’s future and there are ambitious plans in this sector — both in terms of grassroots initiatives and government support,” Edward Gibbs, chairman of Sotheby’s Middle East and India told Arab News. “We regularly sell a lot of material that buyers in Saudi are interested in, and there is certainly growing interest in collectibles.”
Gibbs noted that over the past five years, the auction house has seen a doubling of the number of buyers and bidders from Saudi Arabia — with a high proportion interacting with Sotheby’s for the first time.
“We feel it is important to build on this by physically travelling to the region and bringing the best of what we can offer to the doorsteps of Saudi Arabia,” he added.
Late last year, the auction house was also present at the inaugural Diriyah Biennale. Its participation in the book fair marks increased engagement with Saudi Arabia during a time of great cultural expansion for the Kingdom.
“We are traveling with 10 exceptional pieces, carefully curated to appeal to the tastes of collectors in the Middle East, and celebrating the illustrious history of the region,” Richard Fattorini, Sotheby’s senior specialist in books and manuscripts, told Arab News.
“The showstopper will surely be the monumental Victorian globe, which still has its original receipt. Visually and historically, it is the perfect piece to showcase at a book fair. The close links between Great Britain and the Kingdom are also celebrated in a few of the pieces, most notably with the photographs of Queen Elizabeth II’s visit.”