Abraaj art sale paints picture of firm’s latest woes

Abraaj’s joint provisional liquidators identified 367 pieces of artwork held in the company’s name, with an insured value of $22m, per creditors’ documents.

Abraaj Group’s liquidation extends to the emerging markets-focused private equity firm’s collection of art.

Administrators identified 367 pieces of art held in Abraaj’s name, with an insured value of $22 million, according to a report prepared by joint provisional liquidator Deloitte seen by Private Equity International. Twenty-seven items were sold for approximately $3 million in Mumbai on 26 June.

British auction house Bonhams – itself recently acquired by UK private equity firm Epiris – is offering around 200 works across three auctions on 23 and 24 October, according to a statement from the auctioneers. Bonhams has estimated its share of the collection at £2.5 million ($3.3 million; €2.8 million) to £3.5 million.

Christie’s is also understood to be auctioning a number of additional pieces from Arif Naqvi’s personal collection, according to The Art Newspaper. A spokeswoman for Christie’s told PEI it did not publish the names of its clients for confidentiality reasons.

“All works carrying a low estimate of £50,000 or under are being sold without reserve, and I am hoping that this imaginative approach will encourage many more collectors to enjoy these wonderful pieces,” Nima Sagharchi, Bonhams director of Middle Eastern, Islamic and South Asian art, said.

The JPLs are also investigating the sale of art sold in a Christie’s Hong Kong auction in February 2018, the Deloitte report noted. The administrators have identified which pieces were sold and are making enquiries into the outstanding proceeds.

The upcoming auctions are among the latest efforts to recoup money from the failed business. Abraaj’s US office has been vacated as a result of an eviction notice triggered by a default on $200,000 of overdue rent, while the directors of its UK trading subsidiary are in negotiations to assign the lease to a neighbouring tenant, according to the Deloitte document. The UK landlord is currently deducting $200,000 of outstanding rent from Abraaj’s rental deposit.

The firm’s collection was assembled mainly in the early 2000s. Among the works – highlights of which can be viewed here – are He is Merciful by Iranian artist Mohammad Ehsai, which has a £50,000-£100,000 estimate, and Beej by Indian artist Syed Haider Raza, which has a £120,000-£150,000 estimate.

The three auctions are titled ‘Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art & Art of Pakistan’, ‘Islamic and Indian Art Including Sikh Treasures and Arts of the Punjab’ and ‘Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern Art’.

Deloitte and PwC were appointed as JPLs in June to restructure Abraaj Holdings and the fund management business and sell their assets. Reports first emerged in February that LPs in Abraaj’s $1 billion global healthcare fund had hired an auditor to trace money.

A spokeswoman for Deloitte declined to comment.

– Adam Le contributed to this report

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