Prior to the sale, Hala Khayat, Christie’s specialist in Arab, Iranian and Turkish modern and contemporary art, said: “This is a very diverse sale as it combines modern masterpieces by the Lebanese artist Paul Guiragossian, Syrian artist Fateh Moudarres and the great Egyptian artist Abdul Hadi El-Gazzar amongst others alongside the strongest group of contemporary works we have ever had. We are also introducing several new artists who have not been sold at auction before to this increasingly international audience.”
One hundred twenty works presented were expected to sell for between $5 and $6 million. In fact, on 19 April the results of the auction exceeded all speculations when the total sale reached $8 million.
Michael Jeha, managing director of Christie’s Middle East, commented: “Records tumbled in a standing-room-only saleroom, reflecting the increasing international appeal and quality of art from the Middle East. We were delighted to add 42 records to the 318 already established by Christie’s sales in the Middle East since 2006.”
The highlight of the sale was when a group of six works from Edge of Arabia were sold for $1,051,000 against a pre-sale estimate of around $135 thousand. Edge of Arabia is the internationally-recognised pioneering art project that has shed new light on the largely unknown contemporary art and culture of Saudi Arabia. The money raised will enable the expansion of Edge of Arabia’s education programme and art workshops in Saudi Arabia’s schools and universities.
Aside from the Edge of Arabia group, the packed saleroom witnessed a new record for the Egyptian modern master Abdul Hadi El-Gazzar (1925-1965), when Fishing sold for $746,500 against a pre-sale estimate of $250 -350 thousand.
Abdul Hadi El-Gazzar was one of the most important modern Egyptian artists and one of the leading proponents of surrealism. In this masterpiece by the artist entitled “Fishing” he traces the journey of two fishermen who return with a large shell holding the catch of the day – an imposing blue fish – the same colour used on talismans and amulets to give good luck. A wall behind the figures shows a dream-like sequence of what the fishermen have witnessed through the day. The possibility of both good and bad luck is further suggested by a black cat on the left and white cat on the right of the picture while through an arched window we see a bright sandy beach. El Gazzar believed that people could not conjure up good luck with amulets and that one’s destiny lay in one’s own hands.
Eight other paintings by Egyptian artists were up for sale in the final auction:
Ahmed Moustafa, Flowers that sing the Dreams of the Earth, sold for $31,250
Ahmed Askalany, Thinker, sold for $116,500
Adel El-Siwi, Young Lovers, sold for $23,750
Kareem El-Qurity, People and the Constitution, sold for $16,250
Hamdi Attia, Presentation 1, unsold
Marwa Adel, Whisper, sold for $7,500
Youssef Nabil, Ehsan and Light, sold for $74,500 and Ghada with Canvas Behind, sold for $21,250
The next Christie’s sale of Arab, Iranian and Turkish Art will be held in late October 2011.
Christie’s in the Middle East
Christie’s are the leading art auctioneers in the Middle East and the leading art business in the world. They were the first international auction house to have a permanent presence in the region, as well as the first to hold auctions, which provided an international platform for artists of the region. Christie’s has sold just under $200 million of art, watches and jewellery in the Middle East since the first 10 international art auctions in the region, which started in 2006, and has seen buyers from as many as 30 different countries participating at each sale. In addition to the regular auctions, Christie’s is keen to encourage and support educational opportunities and holds exhibitions, educational seminars and charity auctions throughout the region.