Sotheby's held a $15.2-million contemporary art sale last night in Doha, Qatar, far outpacing its only previous contemporary art auction in the region. Almost 90 percent of the 46 works on offer found buyers.



The auction house established an office in Doha in 2008, two years after Christie's first contemporary art sale in the region, at its Dubai salesroom. Sotheby's 2009 sale of contemporary art in Doha totaled just $4.3 million for 51 works. Last night's auction, which was expected to bring as much as $16.6 million, included mostly artists from the region along with Western artists such as Donald Judd, Damien Hirst and Julie Mehretu.

The top price paid was for Judd's Untitled (Bernstein 90-01), a 1990 wall stack of black aluminum and Plexiglas. It brought $3.5 million, equal to its high estimate, from an unidentified U.S. dealer. Four bidders engaged in a contest for the piece, according to a press release.

Mehretu's Rising Down (2008), a large ink and paint abstraction on canvas, commanded $3 million, also equivalent to the high pre-sale estimate, from an anonymous American buyer.

Middle Eastern and European collectors also competed. Anonymous Middle Eastern buyers paid two of the top 10 prices of the evening, for works by Egyptian artist Chant Avedissian ($1.6 million) and Lebanese artist Ayman Baalbaki ($377,000). Unnamed European buyers took home works by Maurizio Cattelan ($1.3 million) and Rudolf Stingel ($677,000), also among the top 10 prices.

Avedissian's work, Icons of the Nile (2010), a 120-panel set of multimedium paintings, set a record for the highest price for a living Arab artist at auction. It sold to an unnamed buyer from the region and became the evening's number three lot for just above the high estimate.

Nine works set auction records for their artists, including Mehretu, Avedissian, The Atlas Group/Walid Raad and the Algerian Rachid Koraïchi.

PHOTO: Donald Judd, Untitled (Bernstein 90-01), 1990, black anodized aluminum with clear Plexiglas, in 10 units, each 9 by 40 by 31 inches, overall 171 by 40 by 31 inches