The new sale format to be introduced to Christie’s Middle East sales this October includes works by Sohrab Sepehri, Farhad Moshiri, Louay Kayyali, Paul Guiragossian, Mahmoud Said and Charles Hossein Zenderoudi alongside works, often by these same artists, estimated from $2,000 in the new part II sale. Together, the sales to be held on October 25th and 26th comprising 46 lots in part I and 155 lots in part II, are expected to realize between $6.5 and $9 million. It is anticipated that the new part II sale will encourage a new, younger group of buyers to Christie‟s, a reflection of the continuing maturity of the market in the region and the attraction of works by artists from the Middle East and Turkey to an ever increasing group of international buyers.
Hala Khayat, specialist in charge of the sale, said: “This sale marks a significant change in the variety and value of works we can offer. Those who are already familiar with Christie‟s sales in Dubai will see no difference in the quality of what is available but we hope they will notice much more variety and diversity. Anyone encouraged by the lower prices to attend for the first time will feel able to participate across the sales and be tempted by what is on offer. This new format is as much a reflection of the quality of the works we are offered as it is of the growing number of people interested in art from the region, both in the Middle East and internationally.”
Raj Sehgal, Managing Director of Private Banking Middle East and Indian Subcontinent of Credit Suisse, said: “Our long-term association with Christie’s represents our shared belief in the powerful role that art plays in modern society. We are pleased to support Christie‟s work in showcasing exceptional art, both contemporary and historical, from around the world. Credit Suisse has a long-standing affiliation with the arts and the Bank is one of the most prominent sponsors of art and culture globally. Through our partnership with Christie’s, we seek to contribute to the efforts to provide a platform for art and commerce to interact meaningfully.”
Part I – Tuesday, October 25th at 7pm
At first glance Farhad Moshiri‟s work Fame spells out the word against an iridescent background of tiny plastic pearls in the distinctive font used for the 1980s cult film. However, on closer inspection, the word is spelt out using wooden handled knives, the blades wedged into the board. This arresting combination is typical of the artist‟s work, where the seemingly every-day is twisted and subverted. This is the highest valued lot in the sale and is estimated at $300,00-500,000 / AED 1,100,000-1,800,000.
Two remarkable portraits by the father of Egyptian art, Mahmoud Said (1897-1964), are among the other leading lots. Petite fille d’Assiout painted in 1945 shows a young maid servant, her defiant expression confronting the viewer with the Nile behind her. In contrast to Said‟s better known society portraits, here he has been able to convey the spirit and beauty of this young woman, without adhering to convention. It is estimated at $250,000-300,000 / AED 910,000-1,100,000. The second picture, a portrait of an old man, Hag Aly, painted in 1924, carries the same estimate and has been well documented in books and catalogues about the artist‟s work.
By the Lebanese artist Paul Guiragossian (1926-1993) is La famille painted between the mid to late 1980s / early 1990s and described in the catalogue as “the greatest example by the artist to appear at auction to date”. The composition is dominated by his signature elongated figures separated from one another in slender lines even within the tightly packed space. The figures surround a central mother and child, a favourite subject for Guiragossian. Describing the influence of the war in Lebanon in his work, the artist said: “My war was my painting, my revenge was my colours and my biggest revenge was always love, beauty and nature even in the darkest times,” (lot 1: estimate: $120,000-180,000 / AED 440,000-650,000).
An important work by the Syrian artist Fateh Moudarres (1922-1999) is typical of the artists oeuvre with a condensed wall of generic faces arranged in columns in the artist‟s distinctive palette of deep reds and bright ochres. The unidentified, faceless crowd in Nour Al-Ahmar Wa Narhu (Red Light and its Fire) is a reference to his powerless community stripped of its own identity, (lot 9: estimate $180,000-240,000 / AED 660,000-870,000).
Sohrab Sepehri‟s (Iranian, 1928-1990) abstract compositions are among his most distinctive works and a great rarity as only around ten to twelve pieces are known, most of which are in public institutions. The sale includes Untitled (from the Abstract Series), with an estimate of $200,000-250,000 / AED 730,000-910,000 which has a distinctive plain dark background cut with geometric lines and spheres of colour. His interest in angles and cohesive lines in this series resulted in the much admired tree-trunk works of which a superb example is also included in the sale as lot 12. In Untitled (from the Tree Trunk Series), the trunk is shown in close detail at night time, the artist and poet concentrating on the very essence of the bark with soft brush strokes and dark outlines (estimate: $250,000-300,000 / AED 910,000-1,100,000).
The Part I sale has a rich offering from Turkish artists including the catalogue cover lot, Azade Köker‟s (b. 1949) The Apple, showing a perfect red fruit set against a striking black background engraved with small, discreet stylised faces (lot 23: estimate: $70,000-90,000 / AED 257,000-330,000). Among the digital and photographic works is The Feast by Ansen (Turkish, b. 1978) which takes its inspiration from the work on evolutionary theory put forward by Charles Darwin in The Origin of the Species published in 1872, more particularly his assertion that much human behaviour and emotions can be found among our animal ancestors. Ansen‟s work is a hybrid between painting, sculpture and photography and shows a group of gorillas feasting on what appears to be a pile of human flesh. The artist said of the work: “I aimed to create a visual fable……It is the true story of the nature of absolute power…” (estimate: $50,000-70,000 / AED 190,000-250,000).
Among the contemporary pieces is a striking installation piece by Mounir Fatmi (b.1970), a Moroccan artist exhibited as part of Future of a Promise at this year‟s Venice Biennale, who experiments in his work by using video, photography, books and narrative. The Machinery is a mural wall of 30 circular hand-painted steel saws or blades of varying diameters. These sharp, industrial tools used to cut things up are given a soft second layer of beautiful Arabic calligraphy, (estimate: $80,000-120,000 / AED 300,000-400,000).
A joyful sculpture of an elephant by the Lebanese artist Nadim Karam (b. 1957) made of mother of pearl buttons, is another highlight ($40,000-60,000 / AED 150,000-200,000).
Part II – Wednesday, October 26th
Following the success of the Edge of Arabia sale this April where artists from Saudi Arabia donated works for sale in the Christie‟s Dubai auction to benefit arts education in the Kingdom, is an inspiring group of 6 works donated by contemporary Iraqi artists to Echo (Sada) for Contemporary Iraqi Art, a new non-profit organization established to support new works, education programs, preservation initiatives and research in the realm of contemporary art in Iraq and the Diaspora. The works are expected to raise more than $70,000. Made especially for the auction by Ahmed Alsoudani, Untitled, 2011, shows a distorted, grotesque head of a man – a reflection of the horrors of war and its effect on humanity (estimate: $15,000-25,000 / AED 55,000-91,000). Ahmed Alsoudani was born in Bagdad, Iraq, in 1975 but in 1995 he was forced to flee Iraq to avoid reprisals after defacing a mural of Saddam Hussein, later claiming asylum in the U.S. He now lives and works in New York.
By Wafaa Bilal (Iraqi, b. 1966) and Counting, is a photographic print, in which the artist addresses the death of his brother during the war by turning his own body into a canvas, tattooed with a borderless map of Iraq covered with one dot for each Iraqi and American casualty near the cities where they fell, (estimate: $6,000-8,000 / AED 22,000-29,000).
The piece which won the Abraaj Capital Grand Prize and was shown as part of the Future of a Promise at the Venice Biennale has been presented for the sale to Echo / Sada by Jananne Al-Ani (Iraqi, b. 1966 ). Entitled A photographic print from the film, Aesthetics of a Disappearance: Land without People it is estimated at $20,000-25,000 / AED 73,000-91,000.
Three works by contemporary Emirati artists are also given their first introduction to the international auction market. This year was the second time that the UAE has participated in the Venice Biennale, a reflection of the appetite for collecting art in the UAE and a testament to the countries’ maturing group of contemporary artists. The sale includes photographic work by Lateefa Binta Maktoum and Lamya Gargash and a digital print by Saeed Khalifa (estimated from $3,000).
WORKS ON PAPER
Three lots which each include three works will introduce the concept of buying works on paper to the Christie’s Dubai sales. This is a regular category included in other international art sales and allows collectors to acquire work by leading figures for less than an oil or fully worked piece. The trio includes a monochrome triptych by Paul Guiragossian (estimate: $15,000-20,000 / AED 55,000-73,000) and a set of colourful landscapes by Fateh Moudarres (estimate: $5,000-7,000 / AED 19,000-25,000).