Wed, Oct 22, 2014

Art & Auctions
Christie’s sells $12.5m modern art in Dubai

Works from eight important family collections from across the Middle East and around the world drove a sale of Modern and Contemporary Arab, Iranian and Turkish Art at Christie’s Dubai above the $8.5 million high estimate to $12.51 million.

This was the highest sale total for the category since 2010, Christie’s says.

Held yesterday in Dubai, UAE, the sale was 95 per cent sold by value, an indication of the continuing strength of the market and the demand from collectors around the world for works of top quality by the leading artists from the region, Christie’s said.

Among the 121 lots in the sale, 19 new artist records were set including for works by Hamed Ewais, Shafic Abboud, Bahman Mohassess, Koorosh Shishegaran and Samia Halaby.

The work that fetched the highest price was a spectacular painting by the father of modern Egyptian art, Mahmoud Saïd (1897-1964), titled Bergère à Alamei, which sold for $869,000.

Using a luminous yellow pigment soaked with sunlight for the ground, heightened by an immaculate white for the hills in the background, both complemented by a pure bright blue tone of the sea, Saïd manages to reflect the distinctive colours of El-Alamein, the Mediterranean town in the Matrouh Governorate in Egypt. The ‘bergère’ or shepherdess embodies one of Saïd’s recurring subjects, that of the Egyptian ‘fellaha’ or peasant. Paying homage to the shepherdess by placing her on the donkey’s back on top of the hill, proudly dominating the entire scenery, Saïd offers her a sense of nobility with her fiery red dress and deep blue cloak. As such, the artist seeks to capture the essence of true Egyptian female beauty, as he did in his numerous paintings of ‘fellahas’.

Michael Jeha, Managing Director of Christie’s Middle East, comments: “An esteemed group of private collectors and artists’ estates entrusted us with the sale of their works. They have followed this market closely since we held our first sale here (Dubai) in 2006 and decided that now was the right time to offer them for sale at auction. Bidding came from international and regional collectors who had to compete fiercely on the telephone, in the room and online, to acquire them. This sale truly reaffirmed the international appeal of the best Middle Eastern art.”

Jussi Pylkkänen, President of Christie’s in Europe and The Middle East, and the sale’s auctioneer, continued: “The results confirm that Dubai is the global centre for the sale of Middle Eastern art. When I first took the first sale here eight years ago the artists included were largely unknown outside the region. This sale confirmed that the market has matured and that they are now collected globally. The results of the sale also showed that Dubai is the hub of the global market for Middle Eastern art. This is where records are broken.”

The leading private collections in the sale were 90 per cent sold by lot and contributed $4.8 million.

One of the other highlights was a rare Untitled oil on canvas by Parviz Tanavoli (Iran, b. 1937), painted in Minneapolis where he was working as an art teacher in 1962. It depicted geometric figures and was sold for $365,000, six times the low estimate, to applause from the saleroom. This is a world record for a painting by an artist who holds the current record for any work of art from the region. 

Next season Christie’s will again hold its March sales to coincide with Art Week in Dubai to ensure that as many collectors as possible can attend the sale alongside the other events that will be held to celebrate the best art from the Middle East.

Meanwhile, a sale of Important Watches will be held this evening at 7 pm at the Emirates Towers Hotel while the online sale of Middle Eastern Modern and Contemporary Art runs until October 30 at

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