Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel
Dubai, UAE
16 – 18 March 2017

From 16th to 18th March 2017, at the heart of the much anticipated annual Dubai Art Week and amidst the Art Dubai frenzy, Christie’s will be showcasing an exceptional exhibition of more than 160 artworks by the most sought after Modern and Contemporary artists of the region at the Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel in Dubai, that will be auctioned on 18th March at the same venue. Hanging on the built-in temporary walls of the Godolphin Ballroom next to a dazzling selection of luxury watches also to be sold by Christie’s on the 19th March, Arab, Iranian and Turkish artworks from prestigious international collections will be reunited to dialogue with one another before they all find new homes after the sale.

The most important and monumental painting by a Palestinian artist ever to come on the market will lead the show: Ismail Shammout’s (1930-2006) Odyssey of a People painted in 1980, directly consigned by the artist’s family. Impressive for its phenomenal size, artistic virtuoso, emotional power and spectacular composition, Odyssey of a People is a sumptuous re-affirmation of the artist’s skill and a re-discovery of a masterpiece that has not been shown to the public since 2002. It was first exhibited in 1981 in Dar Al-Karama in Beirut, later travelling to Damascus, Malaysia, Kuwait, the Jordan National Museum and finally Ramallah where in 2002, on the day of an Israeli incursion the painting was quickly hidden and folded away by the director of the museum in a pillow case. It was only after the artist’s death in 2006 and that of the director’s in 2008 that the artist’s wife, Tamam Al Akhal, was able to contact the director’s wife to safely take it back to the Shammout family home in Amman, where it belonged.
Measuring six metres wide and one metre high, the dramatic narrative unfolds from right to left, following Arabic scripture. Historical events and figures retracing Palestinian history from the Nakba, the subsequent wars of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, the establishment of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), the permanent feeling of despair amongst the Palestinian people juxtaposed with a sense of hope and unity under the symbol of the Palestinian flag and Kuffiyeh, all the way to a dreamlike expression of liberation, hope and faith of a peace and freedom. As an activist, holding several successive positions within the PLO’s art sector, a distinguished artist and himself a displaced victim of the Palestinian plight, Shammout truthfully depicts the ‘odyssey’ of his people. The ambitious composition with its figures seemingly in motion and coming out of the canvas is executed with a vibrant liveliness which suggests that Shammout transcribes his own personal epic journey, similar to that of his people and hence transposing it to a national level. As one of the 25,000 residents of Lydda who fled their homes in 1948, Shammout and his family found shelter in the Gaza refugee camp of Khan Younis, later moving to Egypt and settling in Rome to study art. Returning to Gaza three years after, he settled in Beirut and enrolled the PLO. After the 1981 Israeli invasion of Beirut, the artist and his family fled again to Kuwait, only to leave again by force following the outbreak of the Gulf War, finally settling in Amman, where he lived until his death.

Next to the belligerent shouts and desperate cries of Shammout’s explosive composition, Egyptian master Mahmoud Saïd’s feluccas quietly drift on the Nile River in the two works being sold as a pair, Assouan – îles et dunes, which includes both the preparatory oil sketch (known as ‘modello’, a standard step for artistic creations used by Old Masters to paint larger scale commissions) and the final composition of the same subject, something which rarely – almost never – occurs in the art market. Coming both directly from the collection of the artist’s daughter Nadia and of her husband Dr. Hassan Elkhadem, the snapshot of an intrinsically Egyptian scene of daily life in Aswan bathing in a warm blinding sunlight draws the viewer back into the magical and glorious realm of Egypt. Painted both in 1949, at the peak of the artist’s career following his resignation from his legal duties in 1947, Assouan – îles et dunes boasts the versatility of Saïd’s skills. The unparalleled manipulation of translucent colours and blazing light, the simplification of elements to compose a lyrical and harmonious composition, the perfect balance between realism and abstraction, are all attributes of these two breathtaking views of Aswan. Without doubt, they proudly re-affirm his dual status as pioneer of Modern Egyptian art and as icon of Egyptian identity.

Four other works by Mahmoud Saïd, all very different in style, period and subject matter, feature alongside the two versions of Assouan – îles et dunes: Eid Al Adha (c. 1917), one of the artist’s earliest known works revealing the artist’s brief encounter with Impressionism and Naturalism from his early artistic training; Les tombes de Bacos (esquisse) (1927), a preparatory oil sketch for one of the masterpieces housed in Cairo’s Museum of Modern Art, painted shortly after the artist’s suffering from typhoid fever; Portrait de Mohamed Saïd Pacha (esquisse), most likely another ‘modello’ and probably painted in the 1920s, before he started a life-size caricature-like portrait of his father, Mohamed Saïd Pacha in 1924 that he only completed 25 years later in 1949, now in the Mahmoud Saïd Museum, Alexandria; Introspection (1930), undeniably Mahmoud Saïd’s most famous self-portrait, full of spontaneity and life rendered through the medium of charcoal.

Other highlights feature a euphoric and luminous green painting by leading Modern Lebanese master Shafic Abboud, La Fête, painted in 1974 and exhibited at the solo show of the Parisian gallery of Brigitte Schehadé in 1977. Three masterpieces by Paul Guiragossian, each of different styles and periods answer to Abboud’s explosion of colours, while a jewel-like view of Lebanon by eminent Lebanese pioneer Saliba Douaihy is magnificently caught between figurative rendering and abstraction. Contemporary Lebanese art is epitomized by the whirlwind of fiery colours, tormented figures and animated texture of Marwan Sahmarani’s composition, and by Nabil Nahas’ signature golden starfish, amongst others.

Modern Iraqi art was spearheaded by Faeq Hassan as early as the 1940s and particularly in 1950 with his role as founder of the Société Primitive or Ar-Rawwad (‘The Pioneers’) in 1950. His striking and imposing rendering of the Battle of Hattin, painted in 1968, characterized by its classicism and mastering of colour reminiscent of Delacroix whom he admired, stands out in Christie’s selection of Iraqi art this season. A rare depiction of the pivotal moment in history when Salah Al-Din Al Ayoubi defeated the Crusaders to reclaim and liberate Jerusalem, this brilliant composition is a prelude to the unique ensemble of Iraqi masterpieces by Dia Al-Azzawi, Kadhim Haider, Shaker Hassan Al-Said, Ismael Fattah, Hafidh Al-Droubi, Mehdi Moutashar, Suad Al-Attar, Radkan Dabdoub and an outstanding example by Mahmoud Sabri, coming directly from the artist’s estate. This wide array of exceptional paintings by Arab artists, is further complemented by a strong group of Modern Syrian Art, amongst which two elegant portraits by founding father Louay Kayyali, four beautiful compositions by fellow Syrian artist Fateh Moudarres, and one of Nazir Nabaa’s most enchanting triptych ever to come for auction.

The Iranian counterpart to the Arab Art section in Christie’s upcoming sale is just as compelling, unraveling the rich cultural heritage encapsulated by Iran’s dominant talents of the 20th and 21st century. Three calligraphic works by Saqqa-khaneh founding member Faramarz Pilaram contrast with the more introspective and abstract landscapes of Sirak Melkonian, represented by an unprecedented collection of his works coming from the prestigious collection of former Parisian gallerist Hervé Odermatt, who had held the artist’s first solo show in Paris in 1977. The large semi-abstract minimalist composition of trees by renowned poet, intellectual and artist Sohrab Sepehri presents yet another aspect of the eclecticism of Modern Iranian Art, in which the artist presents a personal interpretation of the majestic and transcendent beauty of nature, very much inspired by his trip to Tokyo in the 1960s where he studied traditional Far Eastern arts.

Christie’s also introduces a group of young talents from Turkey, displaying the multi-faceted strength of Contemporary Turkish Art with works by Asli Özok, Memed Erdener, Onur Mansız, Erdal Ìnci and others to discover. They feature next to primary works by some the region’s most cutting edge artists, including two mesmerizing compositions by Ali Banisadr; an acrylic-cake work by pop artist Farhad Moshiri alongside a scintillating painting from his famous Numbers series and an unusual deep-turquoise jar; a monumental patchwork of rural scenes in Egypt by Chant Avedissian; two vibrant and colourful examples by Reza Derakshani; a translucent blue composition interlaced with calligraphy by Khaled Ben Slimane, and many other iconic works by Abdulnasser Gharem, Nja Mahdaoui, Rachid Koraidi, Parviz Tanavoli, Youssef Nabil, Lalla Essaydi, to name a few.

As one of Christie’s Dubai’s strongest sale to date featuring many museum quality pieces that appeal to all tastes, another key jewel is the auction catalogue’s front cover, SAIEE CETAREHA by the French artist, Iran-born, Charles-Hossein Zenderoudi. His fascination with astronomy and cosmology is exquisitely encapsulated in this intricate work, one of the most significant and rare compositions of the 1960s to be offered at auction, not to be missed at Christie’s upcoming exhibition this March.