The Islamic art market is booming.
According to Iranian-born businessman and philanthropist Nasser D. Khalili, “Twenty years ago, there would be 20 magnificent pieces and four people buying,” “now there will be four major, important pieces if you’re lucky and 50 people buying.” Auction houses Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Bonhams now hold Islamic art auctions every spring and fall, and sales are growing.
Museums worldwide are also feeling the popularity of Islamic art. Newly opened galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art have attracted 593,000 visitors in less than eight months. The Louvre plans to inaugurate a grand pavilion for Islamic art this month. The Gulf States have also begun planning public and private museums, including the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha.
One factor that may be fueling the market for Islamic art is that it is largely undervalued. According to head of the Middle East Department at Sotheby’s Edward Gibbs, “you could build a sensational collection of medieval Islamic ceramics—a world-class, museum-quality collection—for below their long-term value.” This is not true of the majority of the art market, where great works are scarce and prices are astronomical.