Apollo - October 2019

Apollo

Art Market, October 2019
Susan Moore


The late Oliver Hoare (1945–2018), arguably the most influential Islamic art dealer of his day, was also an extraordinarily engaging personality whose curiosity and passion for all kinds of works of art from across the glob was revealed during the last years of his life in a series of quirky and memorable exhibitions with the title ‘Every Object Tells a Story’. Both aspects of his collector persona – knowledgeable specialist and magpie – are reflected in the sale of some 120 pieces from his estate, masterminded by Christie’s Islamic art department, which he founded in the late 1960s, the first in any major auction house.

It is entirely appropriate that the adventurous and flamboyant Hoare’s most famous professional coup should have been the repatriation to Iran of the most significant part of the celebrated 16th-century Houghton Shahnameh, the most important of all illuminated Persian manuscripts.  This was no ordinary transaction.  After a three-year negotiation, in 1994 the 130 manuscript folios were exchanged for a Willem de Kooning of equal monetary value held in the store of the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art.  The works were swapped, Cold War-style, on the tarmac of Vienna airport.

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