This week in London, Middle Eastern art from the past 1,000 years was in focus at Sotheby’s London with three auctions (20th Century Art/Middle East, The Orientalist Sale and The Arts of the Islamic World) on 25 and 26 April dedicated to the region raising a total of $15.7 million, and breaking several records.
“Our London auctions of Middle Eastern art continue to go from strength to strength, presenting an array of extraordinary artworks and objects of exceptional quality and rarity,” said Edward Gibbs, Sotheby’s Middle East & India Chairman, “There was strong private and institutional interest throughout, with museums buying in each of the three sales – a true reflection of the historical importance of the lots on offer.”
The auctions drew a 23% increase in buyers from the MENA region, and the 20th Century Art/Middle East sale achieved six new auction records for artists including pioneering Iranian modernist Bahman Mohasses, leading Egyptian Surrealist Fouad Kamel and 19th-century Bohemian painter Georg Emanuel Opiz. The 20th Century Art sale totalled $4,474,707 with a sell-through rate of 88.3 per cent, and the top lot was Towards a Sky (1953). The second largest work ever to appear at auction by Fahrelnissa Zeid, it sold for $1,271,216, its first appearance on the market since it was last exhibited in 1957.
Another record breaker was Mohasses’s Requiem Omnibus (Death of Martin Luther King) (1958), a personal and raw response to the assassination of Martin Luther King, which sold for triple its estimate at $748,772. An additional record was also set for Fouad Kamel whose 1941 work The Drinker sold for $120,047. Part of the Egyptian Surrealist group Art & Liberty, Kamel’s work appears on the market at a time when Egyptian Surrealism is taking the globe by storm with the travelling exhibition Art et Liberté: Rupture, War and Surrealism in Egypt (1938 – 1948) curated by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath. “A wider audience than ever is discovering the talents of these pioneering artists,” said Ashkan Baghestani, Sotheby’s Contemporary Arab and Iranian Art Specialist and Head of Sale, in a statement.
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