DOHA - Sotheby’s announced further highlights of its auction of Contemporary art by both Middle Eastern and International artists in Doha, Qatar, on 13th October 2014. The pre-sale exhibition, in partnership with Bank of America Merrill Lynch, will open to the public on 7th October 2014 (Katara Art Center, Building 5, Doha, 2pm- 10pm daily) and run throughout Eid until the auction itself at 7pm on Monday 13th October 2014.
Last year Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Doha sale saw participation from bidders around the world and achieved the highest total for a sale of Contemporary art in the Middle East. Record prices were established for nine artists, including the highest price for a work of art by a living Arab artist. This year’s sale showcases thrilling works by important artists of our time - sought-after established artists as well as exciting emerging artists from both the Middle East and internationally. With pre-sale estimates for works spanning from $10,000 to $1,000,000, the depth and variety of the works offered in Doha have been selected to appeal to a younger, newer collector group as well as an institutional audience.
Artworks by artists from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Palestine will be exhibited and then sold alongside works by internationally acclaimed artists from the US and UK. The carefully curated sale includes eight works by Middle Eastern artists who have never been presented at auction in the region, and five highly sought-after international art stars whose work will be shown and offered for sale for the first time in the Middle East. These artists include Sterling Ruby, Tracey Emin, Lawrence Weiner, Aaron Young, and Lucien Smith alongside major names such as Monir Farmanfarmaian, Nja Mahdaoui, Damien Hirst and Anish Kapoor.
Lina Lazaar, Sotheby’s Director, International Contemporary Art Specialist, said: “This year’s Contemporary Art Doha sale showcases the diversity of artistic styles that Middle Eastern artists are working in today through a selection of extremely desirable works presented alongside signature pieces by world-renowned international artists. The cohesive pre-sale exhibition exemplifies the fascinating and extremely exciting global dialogue between East and West. Each work featured in the sale is of the highest calibre and corresponds directly to the demand from both our Middle Eastern and International clients, and epitomises the future of the vibrant art scene both in the region and internationally.”
TODAY’S RISING STARS OF THE CONTEMPORARY ART SCENE DEFINING THE ART WORLD OF THE FUTURE
The first video artwork to be auctioned by internationally acclaimed Iranian artist Shirin Neshat
“I see my work as a visual discourse on the subjects of feminism and contemporary Islam – a discourse that puts certain myths and realities to the test, claiming that they are far more complex than most of us have imagined.”
Internationally renowned for her evocative and cinematographic films that explore feminism and Islamic culture, Shirin Neshat’s work Passage (dated 2001, estimated at $200,000-300,000) is considered the most significant film installation of the artist’s career. Never before has any video artwork been offered at auction in the Middle East, and this is the first time anywhere in the world that Neshat’s work has appeared at auction. This work has been extensively exhibited and editions are housed in the permanent collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. A major retrospective of her work will be opening at Doha’s Mathaf museum in October. Passage utilises a single projection to depict three equally powerful narrative strands: a line of men carrying a shroud- wrapped body along a beach, a circle of women digging a hole in the ground with their hands, and a child erecting a monument of stones. Filmed in Essouaria, Morocco, a location where the desert-like landscape recalls Qazvin in Iran, the landscape is a sprawling and atmospheric backdrop to the ambiguous movements of the crowds of people. Ultimately they join loosely together in a haunting funerary ritual; a poignant communal act whose mutuality goes eerily unacknowledged.
One of the most effervescent contemporary artists from Saudi Arabia: Rashed Al Shashai
While the kingdom’s art scene previously lagged behind other artistic developments in the Middle East, cutting edge Saudi art has finally found its way thanks to a new generation of pioneers who are pushing the trajectory of fine art in the country. Rashed Al Shashai’s monumental installations comment on the superficiality and the lack of spirituality of mankind, which is questioned throughout his body of work. Heaven’s Doors (estimated at $60,000-80,000) is reminiscent of stained glass cathedral windows, and on closer inspection the work references not only the spiritual but also the mundane.
Speaking about the work, the artist commented, “This series consists in an assemblage of baskets, food storage pots and colanders. Made of ornamented, modern materials, lighted from behind, placed on an aluminium pedestal, the utensils create an installation, reminiscent of the dovetailed glass, doors and windows of the religious architecture. The human being has always strived to build temples, churches and mosques in order to feel close to God, and thank him for all the blessings he has given us, including food. In this sense, the comparison is highly symbolic, as the colanders, just like windows that filter sunrays, create a healthy environment and bring purity to one’s life. The aim of this series is to clarify and somewhat criticise the wrong and immoral aspects of our social practices and unveil their religious veneer.”
A Leading Figure in Contemporary Syrian Art:Thaier Helal
Thaier Helal’s large mixed media works are at the forefront of contemporary Arab Art. Speaking of A Political Map of the World (executed in 2013, estimated at $50,000-70,000) the artist said,“This work juxtaposes the rich and the powerful against those whom they dominate and control across the globe. A Political Map of the World is also concerned with drawing attention to the ongoing war in Syria, which the rest of the world has done little to bring to an end. This map of the world is partially composed of skulls, and particularly skulls in black are used to depict Syria.”
Internationally sought-after and rarely available at auction: Iranian artist Ali Banisadr
Internationally acclaimed and highly sought-after artist Ali Banisadr’s work is heavily influenced by his childhood experiences as a refugee of the Iran-Iraq war. His work is dominated by large-scale fantastical abstract landscapes that convey something of the chaotic violence he witnessed as a child. Drawing on both Eastern and Western artistic traditions, Banisadr’s work recalls both the startling complexity of Persian miniatures and the wide-ranging landscapes of the Flemish Old Masters. Banisadr’s work has developed through a prism of art historical references from medieval imagery to abstract expressionism. The effect of this technique is vividly rendered in his outstanding painting The Chase (est. $180,000-250,000), where the juxtaposition of meticulous detail with looser brushstrokes creates a mesmerizing whole that draws the viewer in to Banisadr’s complex and deeply personal world.
International art world darling appearing in the Middle East for the first time: 25-year old American artist Lucien Smith
In the past three years, 25-year old Lucien Smith has exploded as an international art world darling, creating an instantly recognisable body of work anchored by his highly sought after Rain Paintings, the series to which Forces of Nature belongs (dated 2012, estimated at $80,000-100,000). To create the Rain Paintings, Smith used a paint filled fire extinguisher, from which the shower of drips of paint literally seeped into the unprimed canvas. Smith’s rain-covered canvases are carefully orchestrated in their execution, as the exploding drips are directed by the artist’s intent and hand. The final creation becomes a stunning composition directed by control as well as elements of chance. The introduction of chance into Smith’s painting process draws logical comparisons to Jackson Pollock’s energetic drip paintings and Andy Warhol’s oxidation paintings; the Rain Paintings thus being rooted in Pop as well as Abstract Expressionism, while at the same time speaking to performance art and Impressionism.
One of the most important contemporary artists working today: Los Angeles-based Sterling Ruby
Sterling Ruby's booming career over the past ten years has positioned him to be considered as one of the most important contemporary artists working today. With numerous highly acclaimed gallery and museum shows around the world, Ruby is revered as one of the most talented artists of his generation and his most sought after works are the spray paintings, the series to which SP186 is from. Titled with the initials SP and then a number, SP186 is made entirely with spray paint (estimated at $600,000-800,000). The painting's colour palette ranges from deep blacks, copper, to hints of silver blue and pink, which appear hallucinogenic and gauzy. The competing planes of atmospheric colours recall the abstract tradition put forth in Mark Rothko's masterworks.
An important painting by Qatari artist Yousef Ahmad
“Within the folds of my book, I present my land, my sky, my sea, and the zigzags of my life. Let it be a story to be lived by all who want to know Qatar...”
A member of the first generation of modern artists in Qatar, Yousef Ahmed’s works are inspired by the forms and the hues of the desert landscape of his native Qatar and by Arabic calligraphy. His paintings are often collages or mixed-media works where colours meet textures, derived from natural elements. Ahmed has exhibited throughout the United States, Europe, and the Arab world, and is the director of the new Arab Art Museum in Doha. Letter of Love III, painted in 2008 and estimated at $10,000-15,000 is one of his most representative works.
WORKS BY FIVE OF THE MOST INFLUENTIAL SAUDI ARTISTS TO BE UNITED FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER AT AUCTION
Abdulhalim Radwi, Taha Al Sabban, Abdulrahman Al Soliman, Mohammed Resayes & Mohammed Al Saleem
Until recently, discourse and debate about contemporary Saudi Art was somewhat of a rarity. However, though difficult to believe, a whole generation of 70s and 80s Saudi Modernist pioneers have been overlooked in favour of a younger, fresher, and more experimental generation. Sotheby’s is therefore delighted to bridge this inter- generational gap, allowing for a more continuous and fluid understanding of its historical discourse to take place internationally. The five artists presented in this sale questioned and challenged the boundaries and existing framework of art in their homeland. In recent years, the exposure of contemporary art has enabled these established artists to be re-addressed and seen from a broader and more global perspective. The five modern artists presented in this sale together showcase the wealth of modern Saudi art. Sotheby’s is delighted to present this outtake of modern Saudi art and to further enhance these artists’ international exposure.
Among this group of five artists presented in the sale, Mohammed Al Saleem is one of Saudi Arabia’s preeminent modern artists and one who has greatly contributed to the growth and evolution of Saudi art. Untitled (dated 1989, estimated at $130,000-180,000) displays Al Saleem’s signature fusion of abstraction with figuration: the artist effectively reconciled two ostensibly opposing styles whilst hovering thrillingly on the edge of both. Throughout the 1980s, Al Saleem had been hailed as the leading abstract artist of his generation and was recognised as one of the leading figures of the Pioneers of the Gulf who, in the aftermath of the Gulf war, have found solace in the evocation of geometric form and pure colour on canvas.
CONTEMPORARY MASTERS REDEFINING THE ART OF CALLIGRAPHY
One of the most recognised international contemporary artists from his generation: Iranian artist Farhad Moshiri
Farhad Moshiri’s ability to reconcile the ancient with the modern and the archaic with the twisted uncertainty of the present lies at the core of his oeuvre. In 9NMR1 (dated 2005, estimated at $70,000-100,000) Moshiri’s instrument is a visual vocabulary of symbolic numbers and letters said to have talismanic and protective qualities in Iranian culture. Rendered in a graffiti-like fashion across the canvas, Moshiri’s abstracted calligraphy is referential to the bombardment of the abjad which is plastered across the streets of Tehran and adorns Iranian garments, but is also reminiscent of Western Abstract Expressionism. The painting appears from a distance as a traditional geometric calligraphic pattern, but upon closer inspection, is discovered to be rife with incongruencies and contradictions.
Tunisia’s most renowned contemporary calligrapher: Nja Mahdaoui
Taking inspiration from the ancient angular styles of Kufic script, Arabic letter forms and arts and crafts, Nja Mahdaoui has established himself as an explorer of signs and has been acknowledged as a ‘choreographer of letters.’ His abstract interpretation of letter forms has inspired many of his contemporaries, inciting interest in his work from both the East and the West. Mahdaoui stresses the visual impact of his compositions, which he refers to as calligrams (beautiful writing). His artwork focuses on the curvature and formation of each stroke as opposed to the actual text description, emphasising the organic shapes and contours of each Arabic symbol. This disregard of the literal employment of letters enables his works to create a new rhythmic composition, which can be described as a visual melody; various tempos and harmonies are created through the density and pigments applied to rows of minute inscriptions. Ikhtilej was created over the years spanning 1995 – 2013 and is estimated at $300,000-400,000.
The male art of calligraphy brought into a world of female experience from which it has traditionally been excluded: the work of Moroccan artist Lalla Essaydi
“Through these images I am able to suggest the complexity of Arab female identity—as I have known it—and the tension between hierarchy and fluidity at the heart of Arab culture.”
In the powerfully evocative Converging Territories series Lalla Essaydi’s adorns the women and their surroundings with calligraphic henna, a meticulous and painstakingly time-consuming process. Calligraphy is customarily only accessible to men; by applying it onto women using henna, Essaydi further subverts Islamic gender roles, explaining that “the henna/calligraphy can be seen as both a veil and as an expressive statement. Yet the two are not so much in opposition as interwoven. The ‘veil’ of decoration and concealment has not been rejected, but instead has been integrated with the expressive intention of calligraphy. Although it is the calligraphy that is usually associated with ‘meaning’ (as opposed to mere decoration), in the visual medium of my photographs, the ‘veil’ of henna in fact enhances the expressivity of the images. By the same token, the male art of calligraphy has been brought into a world of female experience from which it has traditionally been excluded.” Converging Territories #8 is estimated at $15,000-20,000.