This is Middle Eastern art week in London and while Sotheby’s sales series is covered here, Bonhams too had a strong Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern Art sale on 26 April, led, refreshingly by a female artist.
Over 90 per cent of works sold in the sale which totalled £2.2m and top lot was a sculpture made in 1960 by the late Lebanese artist Saloua Raouda Choucair (1916-2017). It sold for £275,000 (Dhs1,710,199), over ten times the estimate and a record for the artist. All warped biomorphic curves reminiscent of British sculptors Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, at 60cm high Interform is the largest sculpture by Saloua Choucair to come to auction. It came from the collection of Georges El-Zeenny, the late owner of Beirut's The Smugglers Inn, the artist’s ardent patron who protected her during Lebanon’s civil war
On Interform's heels was Mir + 54 + BZ + S, a 1962 work by Iranian master Charles Hossein Zenderoudi, which sold for £245,000 (Dhs1,523,631) against a £200,000-300,000. Zenderoudi made the work just over a year after moving to France, and this work combines a Fauve-inspired palette and a composition influenced by European letterism with the Persian tradition of intricate calligraphy, always central to the artist’s work.
A painting from 1953 by Iraqi modernist Jewad Selim provoked a bidding battle that saw it far exceed a £60,000-100,000 estimate to sell for £221,000 (Dhs1,374,378). A medley of Modernist visual language and traditional Iraqi and Islamic motifs, Woman Selling Material is typical Selim, painted during his Baghdad Group period, a group he founded with an aim of reconciling Iraq’s aesthetic traditions with the contemporary world. He painted this work for his ground-breaking one-man touring exhibition in the USA in 1953.