A CONSTELLATION OF ART FROM THE MIDDLE EAST From Pioneering Modern Masters to the Most Vibrant Contemporary Names of Today
Mahmoud Saïd, Après la Pluie (After the Rain), 1936, oil on canvas (est. £300,000-400,000)
Painted in 1936 by the founder of modern Egyptian art, Après la Pluie is set to make its auction debut – the most impressive example of Saïd’s landscapes ever to appear at auction.
An erudite, travelled artist, Saïd brought together elements from the European art movements – from sixteenth-century Venetian Old Masters to Cézanne’s radical post-Impressionist explorations of geometry – while remaining anchored in an authentic understanding of Egypt, capturing the Egyptian spirit during a time of intellectual renaissance.
The late 1930s marked the pinnacle of Saïd’s accomplished output, named the ‘Amarna period’ as he moved to a style that embodied Ancient Egypt. This enchanting scene depicts a sleepy countryside village, which became the ever-present background to all the paintings of this period. The canvas is at once both light and dark, capturing the complexities of light to illustrate the depth of a sky as it is after rain – heavy clouds looming, yet with the hope of light and promise of sun. Looming impactfully in the composition is a ripened palm tree, which was to become a recurring motif in Saïd’s works, a whimsical nod to the idyllic charm of the Egyptian landscape. The colours also subtly reference the Nile, with his emblematic cobalt blue peppered with hints of turquoise and deeper, darker shades.
Ali Banisadr, Stardust, 2011, oil on linen (est. £280,000-350,000)
Ali Banisadr’s intoxicating canvases are unmatched in their technical prowess and visceral impact. Laden with multi-layered meaning, his works weave together art historical contexts – Islamic worlds meld with Medieval Europe with ease and the gestural power of Abstract Impressionism is fused with battlegrounds from Persian miniatures.
The boundless nature of his work runs parallel to his success in the global arena, with the artist currently the subject of two concurrent museum shows at the Gemäldegalerie of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna – creating conversations between the magical worlds created in his works and those of Hieronymus Bosch – and Het Noordbrabants Museum in the Netherlands.
Stardust is one of the most joyous works by the artist ever to appear at auction, the effervescent colours enveloping the viewer with a cosmic sense of harmony and serenity.
Bahman Mohasses, Untitled, 1966, oil on canvas (est. £120,000-180,000)
Dubbed the ‘Picasso of Iran’, Mohasses was a pioneering poet and painter whose daring oeuvre was infused with a theatrical flair for depicting raw feeling. His work from the 1960s holds a particular fascination due to its host of dark, mythological characters used to express the anguish and despair of the human condition. This robust yet austere figure painted in 1966 – set against a stark blood-red background – encapsulates the artist’s unique ability to capture strength and vulnerability in the space of one canvas.
Monir Farmanfarmaian, Untitled, 1975, mirror, reverse glass painting and aluminium (est. £70,000-90,000)
Monir Farmanfarmaian’s inimitable style evokes a nostalgia for Iran’s
ancient culture, geometry and craftsmanship alongside the influence
her close friendships with the leading names of Abstract
Expressionism in New York. One of the most celebrated Iranian artists
– with a retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in
2015 – Farmanfarmaian lived to see the first-ever museum dedicated to a female artist in Iran set up in her honour.
This beautiful work was originally part of a mural and is a fine example of the artist’s mirror geometric abstractions, bearing her characteristic flair for manipulating form, reflections and prisms.
Saloua Raouda Choucair, Rhythmic Composition, 1949, gouache on paper mounted on cardboard (est. £30,000-40,000)
In 2013, 97-year-old Saloua Raouda Choucair became the first female
Arab artist to have a solo show at Tate Modern – her inaugural major
international museum exhibition making history. Prior to this, her
works had rarely been seen outside Lebanon and this forward-thinking
step was a huge feat. More recently, her work was featured in a major survey exhibition at the K20 Museum in Dusseldorf last year, which revisited the history of modern art through a global narrative.
Born in Beirut in 1916, Choucair travelled to Paris in 1948 – spending three years in Fernand Léger’s atelier – and her unique response to the European avant-garde translated into a pioneering brand of Arab abstraction. Her aesthetic is shaped by, but not restricted to, Islamic geometry and calligraphy, coloured with the daring palettes of her Parisian contemporaries and infused with the soft landscapes of Lebanon.
This wonderfully poetic and elegant work marks the first time a painting by the artist has appeared at auction.
Dana Awartani, Dodecahedron within an Icosahedron (From the Platonic Solid Duals Series), 2016, wood, copper and glass (est. £18,000-22,000)
Palestinian-Saudi artist Dana Awartani was born and raised in Jeddah, where she currently resides, having studied at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design and the Princes School of Traditional Arts. Her works gently fuse the lineage of Islamic craftsmanship, its motifs and tessellations with contemporary practice.
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