Christie’s Arab Art
Christie’s announces the seasonal autumn auction of Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern Art taking place as a live evening sale at Christie’s headquarters in St James’s, London on 9 November.

The sale offers a strong selection of Modern and Contemporary works of art which reflect the region’s rich modern art heritage and thriving contemporary art scene. Comprising 58works across mediums including painting, drawing, sculpture and photography from the period 1940s-2020s, the sale encompasses works by Arab artists from across the across the Middle East and North Africa, including works by artists from the U.A.E, KSA, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Iran, Iraq, Egypt and Morocco.

From the Real to the Symbolic City (Desert of Pharan series)
fine art latex print on matte 200gm unbleached printing paper
image: 107 x 88½in. (271.8 x 224.8cm.)
framed: 118 x 98½in. (300 x 250.2cm.)
Executed in 2012, this work is number two from an edition of three plus one artist’s proof
Estimate: £25,000-30,000

One of the contemporary highlights of the sale is From the Real to the Symbolic City (Desert of Pharan series), 2012, (illustrated above), (estimate £40,000-60,000) by Saudi Arabian artist Ahmed Mater (B.1979). Recognised today as one of the most esteemed cultural voices, Mater documents and scrutinises the realities of contemporary Saudi Arabia. From the Real to the Symbolic City captures an expansive view of the extraordinarily dense population and traditional architecture that have characterised Mecca for decades. Part of the Desert of Pharan series, the work showcases the tension between public and private space in Islamic cities. While Mecca is home to more than a million residents, it is being transformed to cater to the needs of millions more pilgrims and tourists and the present work reflects on the artist’s concern that a sense of place, history and community are being lost.

Highlights include

signed and dated ‘Adnan 03’ (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
9½ x 11¾in. (24 x 30cm.)
Painted in 2003
Estimate: £60,000-80,000 | US$74,000-97,000 | €69,000-92,000

Etel Adnan (1925, Beirut – 2021, Paris) Untitled, 2003, (Estimate £60,000-80,000).  Untitled is a radiant later work by Etel Adnan, a leading voice of contemporary Arab-American culture who moved between the disciplines of literature, poetry and art. This radiant later work reflects Adnan’s idea of vision as ‘multidimensional and simultaneous’, a meeting place for many images fused into one sensory experience.

Rural family
oil on canvas
27⅜ x 39in. (69.5 x 99cm.)
Painted in 1960
Estimate: £120,000-180,000 | US$150,000-220,000 | €140,000-210,000

Mahmoud Sabri (1927, Baghdad – 2012, Maidenhead), Rural Family, 1960 (Estimate £120,000-180,000). A rare masterpiece by the Iraqi modern pioneer, Rural Family originates from the artist’s estate and was painted around the same time as his celebrated Funeral of the Martyr series. 

signed and dated ’E 55’ (lower right)
oil and mixed media on panel
18⅛ x 23⅝in. (46 x 60cm.)
Executed in 1955
Estimate: £40,000-60,000

Abd Al-Hadi El-Gazzar, (1925, Alexandria – 1966, Cairo), Abstraction, signed, 1955, (Estimate £40,000-60,000). Coming directly from the artist’s estate and included in the forthcoming Catalogue Raisonée prepared by Valerie Didier, Abstraction is a rare work by El-Gazzar in which we see the artist stripping the composition of all resemblance to real life and moving slowly to his subsequent body of work which was concerned with industrialisation and spatial conquest.

Mosques (Holy Economy series)
plastic beads and acrylic on canvas, in artist’s frame
60¼ x 61in. (153.1 x 155cm.)
Executed in 2021
Estimate: £20,000-30,000 | US$25,000-37,000 | €23,000-35,000

Sultan bin Fahad (b. 1971, Riyadh) Mosques (Holy Economy series), 2021, (estimate £20,000-30,000). Sultan bin Fahad is one of the leading contemporary Saudi voices exploring expressions of Islam and Saudi identity through the products of his homeland’s prodigious material culture. By assembling and re-arranging eclectic and domestic objects, bin Fahad aims to illuminate latent cultural memories and connect past and present.  

signed and dated ‘N. R. NAHAS 96’ (on the reverse)
acrylic and pumice on canvas
71 x 58⅞in. (180.5 x 149.5cm.)
Executed in 1996
Estimate: £40,000-60,000 | US$49,000-73,000 | €46,000-69,000

Nabil Nahas, (b. 1949, Beirut) Orion, 1996, (estimate £40,000-60,000).  One of the Lebanon’s most renowned living artists,  Nabil Nahas is a master of colour, texture, and atmosphere. He takes inspiration from a diverse range of resources, most significantly the nature growing up between Lebanon and Egypt and occasionally Islamic art, in particular its abstract geometric and chromatic qualities. Orion is part of the artist’s celebrated Fractal series, built up by layer upon layer of acrylic paint mixed with pumice and finished in vivid colours. Through its three-dimensional exploration and play with scale, viewers are invited to delve into microcosmic worlds within the canvas.

Dr Ridha Moumni, Deputy Chairman, Christie’s Middle East and North Africa comments, ‘Following the successful exhibition of Arab Art in London at Christie’s London over the summer, we are delighted to be able to bring a selection of the very best examples of Arab art to auction this autumn.  Hosting a live sale in London enables us to reach across time zones and to an increasingly international market for works from across the Arab world, as well as our existing important Middle Eastern client base.  I am delighted to see such a rich and varied selection from established names being sought after by a new generation of collectors’.   

Marie-Claire Thijsen, Head of Sale, Middle Eastern Modern and Contemporary Art comments, ‘The auction offers a vibrant mix of exciting contemporary voices and modern masters across different price points appealing to both new and seasoned collectors alike. Spanning from across the Middle East and North Africa and held in London, the sale conveys the importance of art as a strong form of visual communication, encouraging discussion and supporting the history and heritage of the Middle East and North Africa through art’.    

Estimates range from £2,000-£120,000 and the sale is expected to realise in the region of £1,244,000-1,803,000.

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