Going, going, gone: Arab art goes under the hammer in Dubai
In 2006, almost 250 years after it first opened in London, Christie’s opened its first Middle Eastern office, in Dubai. Since then, the Dubai branch of the world’s largest art auction house has sold over $200 million worth of work and introduced over 100 contemporary artists from the region to the international art market. Christie’s Dubai currently holds two auctions each year featuring art from the MENA region.This year’s second auction, sponsored by the Zurich Insurance Group, will be held Tuesday and Wednesday. Sales will begin with an untitled oil-on-canvas work by renowned Lebanese painter Paul Guiragossian, who died in 1993, which is estimated to sell for between $30,000 and $40,000. The work has been in the private collection of the same family since the late 1960s.
Work by Huguette Caland – daughter of the first Lebanese President Bechara el-Khoury – will also be auctioned, along with pieces by Lebanese artists Chafic Abboud, Youssef Aoun, Zena Assi, Hussein Baalbaki, Flavia Codsi, Tagreed Darghouth, Saliba Douaihy, Omar Fakhoury, Elie Kanaan, Pierre Koukdjian, Mohammed el-Rawas and Camille Zakharia.
A metal wall sculpture by Lebanese-Palestinian artist Abdulrahman Katanani, titled “Boy Flying with a Balloon,” will also go on sale.
Other notable works include several pieces by the celebrated Syrian modernist Fateh Moudarres, including a 1962 oil-and-gold-leaf-on-panel work, titled “Lady with a Big Heart,” estimated to fetch $30,000 to $40,000.
A sculpture by Iranian artist Parviz Tanavoli is also going under the hammer, estimated at between $15,000 and $20,000. The fiberglass-on-metal work is of a simple flowing shape, formed by the three letters of the Farsi word “heech,” (nothing).
Tanavoli aims to invoke the eternality of God, next to which everything else lacks permanence, but was also drawn to the word due to the resemblance between its written shape and the human body.
In April 2008 one of Tanavoli’s sculptures was sold by Christie’s Dubai for $2.8 million, a record-making sale constituting both the highest price ever achieved at an art auction in Dubai, and a world auction record for an artist from the Middle East and North Africa.
The October auction will also include a number of lots donated to raise money for two art-related charities.
Caspian Arts Foundation was established last year to sponsor artists from the MENA region to complete their postgraduate studies at University of the Arts, London, while the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, London, combines practical teaching of the arts along with philosophy of art, and includes international outreach programs.
A group of artists – five Iranian and one Iraqi – and their galleries have donated six lots on behalf of the Caspian Arts Foundation, which are estimated to raise between $95,000-$167,000.
The seven lots donated on behalf on the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts are by artists from Romania, Iran, Tunisia, Jordan and Japan and are expected to fetch $140,000-$185,000.