Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern Art, Bonhams

Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern Art, Bonhams

Bonhams announces the upcoming auction of Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern Art, located on New Bond Street in London. The auction will take place on Wednesday, May 24, 2023, starting at 4pm.

The sale features an impressive collection of artworks, including Kadhim Hayder’s Epic of the Martyr series, featuring “Al Qamar” going for  €45,000 – 68,000, and Iraqi artist, Mohammed Ghani Hikmat’s wooden sculpture titled “The Family”, going for €23,000 – 34,000

Bidding options are available for both online and in-person participation. New bidders are required to register and provide a valid credit card for verification. Bidder registration forms can be found in the catalogue or on the Bonhams website at Bids can also be placed through the Bonhams app.

Red Composition, Dia Azzawi 

Red Composition, oil on canvas, framed
signed “Dia Azzawi”, and dated “1970” (lower left and on the verso), executed in 1970, 125 x 125cm (49 3/16 x 49 3/16in).
£50,000 – 80,000
€57,000 – 91,000
US$62,000 – 99,000

Bonhams presents “Red Composition,” a significant artwork created by renowned Iraqi artist Dia Azzawi in 1970. This was painted shortly after Azzawi established the “New Vision Group” and represents a pivotal moment in his artistic journey. It showcases his mature painterly style and signature palette, as well as the integration of Arabic and Ancient Mesopotamian letterforms, which is a distinguishing feature of his work.

In “Red Composition,” Azzawi draws inspiration from ancient cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphs, incorporating figurative pictograms and abstract signs into his visual language. The painting’s bold use of colour and dynamic composition demands the viewer’s attention, with fiery red hues balanced by black lines and forms that create a sense of movement and depth.

Azzawi’s artistic career began in 1964, influenced by his studies of ancient civilisations and Iraqi heritage. He aimed to connect the visual culture of the past with the present, and his formation of the New Vision Group in 1969 further emphasized this objective. The group sought to unite artists ideologically and culturally, expanding the parameters of local culture to encompass the entire Arab world.

Recognized as an important piece in Azzawi’s body of work, “Red Composition” represents a turning point in his artistic evolution and embodies his mature style. With international exhibitions and his art held in prestigious collections, Azzawi is regarded as an authority on modernist and contemporary art from the region, particularly in post-conflict Iraq.

“This is part of our “identity problem”: what to do with calligraphy? How do we use it to create something which is related to our history?
I was very much influenced by a different part of Iraqi history, mainly by Sumerian art, and this combination with Arabic calligraphy, gave me the ability to create new kinds of abstract imagery”
– Dia Azzawi

Donkey, Adam Henein

Donkey, bronze, signed “A.HENEIN” and numbered “I. IIX”, number 1 from an edition of 8, executed in 1964, 79 x 107cm (31 1/8 x 42 1/8in).
£70,000 – 100,000
€79,000 – 110,000
US$87,000 – 120,000

Bonham showcases a sculpture by Adam Henein, which is considered one of his most iconic works. Titled “Donkey,” this sculpture holds great significance and is the first of its kind to be offered at an auction. Henein, who grew up in an Egyptian village, had a deep connection to the natural landscape and animals, particularly the donkey, which he viewed as a symbol of resilience and endurance.

The donkey represented for Henein the beauty and dignity found in a simple life and the harmonious relationship between humans and nature. He was captivated by the expressive nature of the donkey’s face and its ability to convey emotions through body language. Additionally, Henein drew inspiration from ancient Egyptian traditions of animal worship and the role of animals in Egyptian mythology. Through his sculptures of donkeys, he aimed to capture the timeless beauty and majestic quality associated with these humble creatures.

In ancient Egyptian culture, the donkey held both practical and symbolic significance. As a beast of burden, donkeys played a crucial role in transportation, carrying goods within cities and facilitating long-distance trade. They were also symbolic of Egypt’s agricultural and economic system, vital for crop cultivation and goods transportation. Donkeys were prominently featured in Egyptian art, depicted in tomb paintings, reliefs, and other artifacts. They held religious significance in ceremonies honoring the god Seth, associated with the desert and the donkey.

Even today, the donkey continues to symbolize Egypt’s rural and agricultural heritage, remaining an important animal in various regions of the country.

“See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey”.
– Zechariah 9:9

Baghdadiat, Faeq Hassan 

Baghdadiyat, oil on canvas, framed, signed (lower left), executed circa 1950s 75 x 62cm (29 1/2 x 24 7/16in).
£60,000 – 100,000
€68,000 – 110,000
US$74,000 – 120,000

His Cubism in the fifties was a mixture of Arab forms largely derived from the 13th century Baghdadi illuminator Yahya al Wasiti, and current European forms. But his peasants, his Bedouins, his fishermen owe much to the waters of Tigris and Euphrates. His harvesters, his curd-sellers, however cubistically stylized, laboured under a clear Mesopotamian sun” – Jabra Ibrahim Jabra

“Baghdadiat” is an expression of Faeq Hassan’s experimentation with Cubism and represents the essence of “Baghdad Modernism.” This artwork seamlessly combines local Iraqi and Mesopotamian influences with European Modernist techniques, resulting in a harmonious and skilfully executed piece.

The Baghdad Group of Modern Artists, including Hassan, were deeply committed to exploring their cultural heritage and incorporating elements of Iraqi art and folklore. They drew inspiration from traditional crafts and Islamic art, fusing them with European artistic styles to create a unique and modern yet deeply rooted Iraqi aesthetic.

Hassan’s composition initially evokes the simplified figuration seen in works by artists like Miro and Picasso. However, closer examination reveals references to ancient Mesopotamian statuary and traditional Eastern symbols, such as the crescent Moon. The artwork bursts with vibrant colours, shapes, and textures, capturing the energy and dynamism of the Baghdad Modern art movement.

Faeq Hassan, often regarded as the father of Iraqi modern art, played a pivotal role in shaping the Iraqi art scene. His dedication to expressing national pride and developing artistic skills among his students was instrumental in fostering a sense of cultural identity. Hassan’s artistic legacy remains influential, and this particular artwork has been held in a private German collection for over 50 years, part of a significant collection of Iraqi Modernism.

The Baghdad Group’s distinctive characteristic was their ability to blend European and local influences seamlessly. Many artists in the group had studied in Europe and drew inspiration from modernist movements like Cubism, Surrealism, and Abstract Expressionism that emerged in the early 20th century.

The Legacy of Eve, Rateb Seddik 

The Legacy of Eve, oil on canvas executed circa 1960s-1970s, 77 x 110cm (30 5/16 x 43 5/16in).
£70,000 – 120,000
€79,000 – 140,000
US$87,000 – 150,000

Bonhams offers a rare and exceptional piece of Egyptian Surrealism, marking the auction debut of Rateb Seddik’s artwork. Titled “The Legacy of Eve,” this emotionally charged composition showcases Seddik’s distinctive surrealist style, featuring grouped figures. The painting depicts the Biblical narrative of the Curse of Eve, highlighting the divine punishment of childbirth pain. Seddik skillfully combines classical and modern artistic elements to symbolically express the suffering of women. The Curse of Eve, as described in the Bible, signifies the physical agony and subordinate role imposed on women in relationships with men. Seddik’s interpretation portrays this curse as a metaphor for the challenges faced by women in patriarchal societies. The painting portrays distressed female figures and infants, their faces contorted with pain and anguish, reflecting the generational suffering resulting from the curse. Seddik’s work draws inspiration from Renaissance depictions of the fall of man, exemplifying his emotionally charged figuration and influence from renowned artists like Michelangelo and Masaccio. Despite Seddik’s participation in significant institutional exhibitions, his artwork has never been presented at auction, making this piece a rare and highly desirable acquisition for collectors seeking exceptional examples of his seldom-available work.

Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern Art Auction

Location: Bonhams, New Bond Street in London

Duration: May 24 2023, starting 4:00pm.





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