…With the current creative and commercial buzz around the region`s art scene, collectors from the region and around the world are descending on Dubai to snap up pieces from young and, until recently, relatively unknown names from the Middle East. Artists such as Ahmed Askalany from Egypt and Zena Assi from Lebanon, to name just a few, are suddenly finding their work selling for millions of dirhams at international auctions.

The number of art galleries and art fairs in the region is expanding with serious and moneyed art collectors as well as curators looking for exclusive pieces to include in their collections and galleries.
Collectors and curators from the Middle East have begun to figure in international power lists too, showing just how much clout the region now boasts. Turkish curator Vasif Kortun, who curated the UAE pavilion at the 54 Venice Biennale in 2011, ranked an impressive 82nd place in Art Review`s Power 100 list last November. It`s the first time anyone from the Middle East has been recognised.
"Interest in the region`s art has definitely grown,`` says Isabelle de la Bruyere, Christie`s director for the Middle East. When the international auction house opened its regional offices in Dubai in 2005, it began with a conservative projection estimating sales of $30 million (Dh110 million) between 2006 and 2009. However, the group was in for a pleasant surprise when it posted business worth $63 million (Dh231 million) in just two years. 
Building momentum
Amel Makkawi, curator of Art Sawa gallery, believes the trend to purchase pieces by regional artists has been gathering steam in the last few years. Dubai, being at the epicentre of this growing creative energy, showcases this trend. Ten of the 35 galleries represented at Art Dubai this year were from the emirate.
"I believe this is happening because three factors have finally come together - artists, promoters and the market," Amel says.
"The artists first matured technically and conceptually as well as in their process of producing contemporary art, and this is reflected in their works, and in the sale and marketing force. The promoters of Middle Eastern art - art galleries, curators, art magazines, auction houses, museums and fairs - have recognised the huge potential in artists` development and have strengthened professionally in order to highlight it.
"Also, the collectors have found that the prices are still affordable for such quality and have realised they can acquire a collection with a smaller budget."
The deciding factor
With so many talented artists, gorgeous pieces and different price points, it can be difficult to know what to buy. "We never recommend people buy art as an investment," says Isabelle. "We always encourage collectors to buy what they love and, if over time, the value increases, then that`s an added bonus.``
"Our understanding of bankable artists comes from researching the works available,`` says Amel. "We have two categories of artists. The masters are well established with their works recognised by museums, institutions, reputed collectors and an audience that follows their success. They have been part of the art movement, or are a slice of the art history.
"Then we have upcoming artists; a young generation of artists full of potential and enormous talent with works that are priced lower. If you are looking to purchase good art of this region I would advise you to go first with what you like simply because you have truly and sincerely to enjoy your acquisition.
"The second step would be to research the work, its technique and meaning. You need to learn about the artist, his or her background, commitment to art and to art dealers."
Good research will ensure you have a better chance of bidding on the next Damien Hirst of the Middle East.
Amel Makkawi’s top six artists to keep an eye out for: 
1. Ahmed Askalany, Egyptian, sculptor
2. Marwa Adel, Egyptian, photographer
3. Zena Assi, Lebanese, painter
4. Wael Darwesh, Egyptian, painter
5. Sumayyah Al Suwaidi, Emirati, digital artist
6. Hend El Falafly, Egyptian, painter and engravings
"I can`t guarantee that all their works will go up to millions but they have a professional trajectory and career and details about them can be found on our website:"
- Amel Makkawi