Middle East masterpieces under the hammer at Christie’s

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DUBAI: Highlights from several upcoming sales at Christie’s London — predominantly the Middle East Sale taking place from 15-19 October — reveal a diverse range of art not limited to the Middle Eastern region.

From an intricately painted 2016 diptych (“The Interpreter”) by US-based Iraqi artist Hayv Kahraman to Palestinian artist Hazem Harb’s satirical “Hollyland,” which layers acrylic lettering in the style of Hollywood’s famous sign over an archival photograph of Jerusalem, through the late Iranian artist Monir Farmanfarmaian’s mirrored disco ball sculpture from the 1970s, and even British painter L.S. Lowry’s iconic 1953 work “Going to the Match,” displayed in honor of the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Qatar, highlights displayed in an exhibition at Christie’s showroom in Dubai until September 24 include masterpieces of modern Arab and Iranian art, as well as works by eminent artists form the African continent including El Anatsui and the emotive paintings of Lynette Yiadom-Boakye — underlining growing regional interest in art from Africa.

The exhibition is the first curated by Christie’s new management in the region.

Hazem Harb, “Hollyland.” (Supplied)

“Creating and expanding a global platform for the appreciation and sale of artworks from the Middle East has been a key objective for Christie’s since 2005, and we are bringing some stellar sale highlights to the region,” said the new deputy chairman of Christie’s Middle East, Dr. Ridha Moumni, in a statement.

“We have clients that purchase so differently that creating a Middle Eastern art sale is challenging; we don’t want to be replicating works from before and want to provide an offering that shows what clients want to purchase now,” Meagan Kelly Horsman, the new regional managing director, told Arab News.

A case in point would be Saudi artist Ahmed Mater’s famous “Evolution of Man” (2010), which examines the Kingdom’s rapid growth since the discovery of oil in 1938. It is expected to sell for between $28-35,000.

Kamal Boullata, “Angelus II-1.” (Supplied)

There’s also “Angelus II-1” a poignant abstract work from 2017, consisting of a series of colorful crisscrossing lines by the late Palestinian painter and art historian Kamal Boullata, estimated at $28-40,000, as well as a rare piece by Iraqi painter Dia Azzawi — 1970’s “Colored Letters” — estimated at $34-45,000.

One of the most expensive works on show is “Broken Land” (2015) by New York-based Iranian painter Ali Banisadr. Constructed in his signature rhythmic, abstract style, an intense sense of motion — and emotion — is immediately conveyed by his sea of figures and objects in scenes hardly recognizable to the viewer.

Among the African works on display is Ibrahim El-Salahi’s “The Tree” (2003) — an abstract geometric composition that is part of a series referencing the Haraz tree native to his homeland of Sudan. Born in Sudan in 1930, El-Salahi is one of the most important living African artists and a central figure in the development of African Modernism. His work is currently being shown in the main exhibition of “The Milk of Dreams” at the 59th Venice Biennale.

Monir Farmanfarmaian, “Mirror Ball.” (Supplied)

There’s also a 1997 image by Nigerian photographer Samuel Fosso called “The Chief: The One Who Sold Africa To The Colonists,” estimated at $17-23,000, and from Robert Devereux’s Sina Jina Collection there’s El Anatsui’s 2002 acrylic on carved woodwork “Drying Line” (estimated at ?68-91,000) and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s “Magic” (2007), a series of three oil paintings going for $171-228,000.

“Devereux is known as an early supporter of African art and his collection showcases a broad offering of art from the continent,” Isabel Miller, a specialist in post-war and contemporary art at Christie’s London, told Arab News.

Samuel Fosso, “The Chief – The One Who Sold Africa To The Colonists.” (Supplied)

Devereux’s collection, which is the largest single owner collection of African contemporary art to come to the market, will be sold in a single-owner sale on Oct 13 in London.

“Collecting tastes in the region are more international now than regional,” said Suzy Sikorski, a specialist at Christie’s Middle East. “Even collectors that originally started collecting from this region are now branching out into African and international art.”