Christie’s is getting more bullish on Middle Eastern Modern and Contemporary art since they moved the sales to London. The firm is gearing up for its October 24th sale where the lead work will be Abdel Hadi El Gazzar’s An Ear of Mud, an Ear of Paste from 1951.
Christie’s release has details of the several artists like Parviz Tanavoli, Sohrab Sepehri, Monir Farmanfarmaian and Mohammed Ehsai from Iran or Hamed Ewais from Egypt and Syrian artist Marwan:
After the success of the move to London of Christie’s October sale of Middle Eastern Modern and Contemporary Art sales last year, the sale will be held here again on 24 October, with a free public exhibition from October 20.
The highlight of the sale, An Ear of Mud, an Ear of Paste, executed by Egyptian masters, Abdel Hadi El Gazzar’s (1925-1966, estimate: £350,000-450,000), was painted in 1951 and has been in the same private collection and unseen since 1986. The artist will be the subject of a catalogue raisonné due to be published later in 2019 by Valérie Didier Hess and Dr. Hussam Rashwan, the scholars behind the 2017 publication of the first ever catalogue raisonné of any Middle Eastern artist, Mahmoud Saïd.
A mosaic and mirror work entitled Drawing in Glass Number 3 by the Iranian artist Monir Farmanfarmaian (b. 1924) reflects the artist’s strong passion for her Iranian heritage and the influence of the great young American artists including Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko and Joan Mitchell with whom she mixed in New York during her time there during the heyday of Studio 54. The regular diamond pattern of the mirrored surface secured with plaster on board is estimated at £120,000-150,000.
Also representing Iran is an important edition of 5 known casts from Parviz Tanavoli’s (b. 1937) much celebrated Wall series. The Wall and the Scripts, painted in 2007 and estimated at £120,000-180,000, is a metre-high bronze sculpture richly embellished with calligraphy.
Often referred to as ‘tableaux vivants’, Hamed Ewais’s (Egyptian, 1919-2011) works depict a wide range of Egyptian characters set against a backdrop that reference political events or social realities in Egypt at the time. In his work America, painted in 1970, Ewais provides a visually scathing commentary on the diplomatic stalemate between Egypt and its allies against Israel from 1967 to 1970. The central figure is a machine, a mechanical Trojan horse with intricate and advanced engineering features to represent Egypt’s military advancement. Around the picture is a representation of the Statue of Liberty set against Egyptian landscape features. Ewais was delivering a political message in order to safeguard Egypt and its heritage from foreign powers (estimate: £70,000-100,000).
Mohammed Ehsai’s work (Iranian, b. 1939) incorporates traditional Persian script with contemporary techniques – a seamless transition between ancient and modern bringing about an entirely new face to lyrical Iranian art. Untitled from the Allah series, painted in 1975 contrasts a stark white background with the vivid green of the calligraphy. The work is expected to sell for between £60,000-80,000.
From a private Canadian collection is Sohrab Sepehri’s (Iranian, 1929-1980) Untitled (Tree Trunk), painted in the early 1960s. The tree series is among the most sought-after works by the artist in which he explores the delicate intersection between nature and the divine. In 1960 Sepheri went to Japan to expand his knowledge of lithography and woodblock printing and from there travelled to India to learn about Buddhism and then Paris to make a further study of lithography. Borrowing from the minimalism learnt in Japan, his interest in Buddhism, and combining them both with the Western modernity he learned in Paris, Sohrab was able to create his own distinctive painterly language (estimate: £60,000-80,000).
Marwan (Syrian, 1964-2016) has been internationally acclaimed for his stylistic, post-Surrealist approaches to portraiture and still life. In Untitled (Still Life), 1977 (estimate:£30,000-40,000), the artist overlays paint to highlight distinct features with heavy brush strokes which draw these objects out. Originally from Syria but having spent most of his life in Germany, Marwan became the first Arab member of the distinguished Akademie der Künste of Germany. His work very often addressed his views on human rights in Syria, Iraq and Palestine.
The vibrant scene recreated of Zena Assi’s (Lebanese, b. 1974) home town of Beirut entitled My City #6 from 2011 is included among the contemporary works in the sale. Painted using collage, acrylic and ink on canvas, the work is offered without reserve with an estimate of £2,000-4,000. The work contains strong visual references of her hometown and complexities of contemporary city life found within its chaotic landscape. With her characteristic attention to detail the multi-layered composition, laden with buildings, billboards and electricity wires adjacent to colourful graffiti and posters. This creates a claustrophobic and congested scene, a celebration of the domestic, with potted plants and hanging laundry, and the political with billboard signs shouting out ‘BEIRUT,’ ‘WAR’ AND ‘ART’.