Featuring paintings, drawings, sculptures and ceramics from artists across the Arabian Peninsula, North Africa, Iran and Turkey, Sotheby’s 20th Century Art / Middle East sale brings together a diverse selection of artworks encompassing the myriad of styles that developed in the 20th and 21st centuries throughout these regions.
Mohammed Kazem, Soundless, pastel on paper, 2017 (est. £25,000-30,000)
Mohammed Kazem was born in Dubai, studying painting at the Emirates Fine Art Society, Sharjah, before focusing on music in the early 1990s at the Al Rayat Music Institute, Dubai. A conceptual artist interested in the overlooked elements of daily life, Kazem’s works offer a reflection on individuality in the era of globalisation and modernisation. This series of eight works, executed in blue, green, purple and red, documents Kazem’s exploration of natural light, movement, and sound at precise moments in the day.
Samia Halaby, Wind in the Sun on Earth in Early Winter, oil on canvas, 1982 (est. £20,000-30,000, illustrated p.1)
Major abstract artist, activist and academic, Samia Halaby was born in Jerusalem, moving to New York in the 1970s. Once in America, she began her artistic training whilst teaching art for over 20 years at university, including a decade as the first female Associate Professor at Yale School of Art. Her work has since been featured in many illustrious cultural institutions internationally, including the Guggenheim in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the British Museum in London, the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris and the Mathaf in Doha. This painting hails from a series known as ‘Autumn Leaves and City Blocks’, inspired by the dramatic seasons of Connecticut and their lively palette of yellows, oranges and reds. With its sense of infinite motion, the piece also explores Halaby’s fascination with geometrical compositions, and the way the natural landscape interacts with manmade elements.
Jamil Molaeb, Jerusalem, oil on canvas, circa 2020 (est. £7,000-10,000)
Lebanese artist Jamil Molaeb approached the project to depict Jerusalem as a human commitment, searching for universal symbols. In a succession of almost identical canvases, the artist repeated, with very slight variations of themes and colours, small architectural and figural elements. This bird’s eye view of domes, churches, fruits, animals, and dwellers is reminiscent of the once harmonious life in Jerusalem, thus directly reminding the viewer of the suffering now bound to the modern conception of the sacred city.
Aref el Rayess, Untitled work from the Desert series, oil on canvas, 1988 (est. £60,000-80,000)
Self-taught artist Aref El-Rayess is regarded as a pioneer of Lebanese Modernism, his avant-garde works acquired by UNESCO. In 1980, with Lebanon in the midst of Civil War, the artist relocated temporarily to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia – under the instruction of the mayor there at the time, for whom El-Rayess was an art consultant. Sourcing marble and stone for a public commission, he made multiple excursions across the country – becoming exposed to the tranquillity and spirituality of the Arabian desert and coast. El-Rayess was particularly inspired by the beauty and mysticism of the light, which he sought to capture in his art. This work skilfully depicts a fleeting moment of daybreak over the desert, capturing the light of dawn with an intense pigment yet sense of softness.
Paul Guiragossian, Groupe en conversation, oil on canvas, circa 1990 (est. £30,000-50,000)
Paul Guiragossian was one of the leading pioneering artists of modern Lebanese art. Throughout his lifetime, his recurring abstract depiction of mankind was reworked and reshaped constantly – as he continuously reinterpreted the colours, depth, form and size of his subjects. This work’s joyous colours are unique within Guiragossian’s ouevre, whilst still echoing the artist’s signature style.
20th Century Art / Middle East
19-25 October 2022, Sotheby’s London