Saudi artist and physician Ahmed Mater has donated his iconic artwork “Magnetism” to the solidarity initiative “The Future is Unwritten’s Healing Arts,” launched by Christie’s auction house to support global efforts to combat the COVID-19 outbreak and facilitate community healing and healthcare messaging in the pandemic’s aftermath.
The initiative is a collaboration between Christie’s, the World Health Organization, WHO Foundation, UN75, World Council of Peoples for the United Nations (WCPUN) and CultuRunners.
“This cultural call-to-action, which will include a series of auctions through December 2021, aims to increase awareness around a global path to recovery and raise critical funds to mobilize artists and health professionals in support of communities most vulnerable, at-risk and with the weakest health systems to act effectively in response to the pandemic,” Christie’s said in a press release.
“As a community physician and leading Arab artist, Mater has donated the work to express his solidarity with the WHO and join a global cultural movement to support recovery from the pandemic,” it added.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also praised the initiative, saying it “represents a unique opportunity for the art world to step up to this global challenge and support communities on the front line of the pandemic, ensuring everyone, everywhere has the tools they need to overcome it.”
Mater’s “Magnetism” is an installation of iron filings and magnets on a white cabinet within a glass case. It is now for sale at the first of three online auctions organised by Christie’s Middle East Contemporary Art department, running November 11-24.
Very happy to have met the great Saudi artist @AhmedMater in #Riyadh. Very inspiring exchanges on the role of art in our societies during #COVID19, on the place of artistic education, the necessary engagement of the artist, as of the diplomat, in intercultural dialogue. ????? pic.twitter.com/cpsiTvR0fa— Ludovic Pouille (@ludovic_pouille) November 14, 2020
Christie’s describes “Magnetism” as “one of the 21st Century’s most iconic cultural images from the Islamic world,” adding that “Mater fuses art, science and the concept of identity and religion.”
The central focus of the piece is a cuboid magnet that resembles the black draped Ka’aba. Mater drew inspiration for the work from how the world, particularly the Islamic holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, has been affected by the spread of the virus.
Around the cube are spiral patterns made of tens of thousands of iron particles evoking the hajj, which was scaled back dramatically this year to allow only around 1,000 Muslim pilgrims due to the pandemic.
“Mater’s counterpoint of square and circle, whirl and cube, of black and white, light and dark, places the primal elements of form and tone in dynamic equipoise,” Christie’s press release said, noting that “the overall aim of the artist is simple, but enchantingly alluring. Given, during COVID-19, Mecca was seen mostly empty for the first time in its history, this work is well positioned to launch the Healing Arts Auction series.”
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