Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel
Dubai, UAE
Public Viewing
19 – 23 March 2018
Middle Eastern Modern & Contemporary Art Auction
22 March 2018

Looking ahead to Dubai’s seventh Art Week from March 18-24, 2017, the seasoned Christie’s Middle East team of art specialists, led by Michael Jeha, Managing Director and Hala Khayat, Director and Head of Sale, deliver their predictions for the continued development of the region’s art market.

Michael Jeha, who celebrates 20 years at Christie’s in 2018, and who has overseen Christie’s Middle East since its 2005 office opening in Dubai, stated: “Our annual sale in the region is a cornerstone of Dubai Art Week and in our 13th year of sales in the Middle East, we are seeing considerable maturity both in the quality of works offered, especially by the region’s modern masters, and the discerning tastes of collectors, who appreciate the choice of works available and continue to pursue the most rare and outstanding pieces.”

Hala Khayat, Director and Head of Sale marking a decade of consigning works for Christie’s sales in Dubai, commented: “During the last 10 years of working with Christie’s Middle East, I have seen a very real transformation in the status of the artists, the consistent attention their art attracts from a regional and international group of committed collectors, and the growing awareness and appreciation of a thriving culture sector, of which Christie’s is a key part. Further access and education is critical to the future of the region, and Christie’s fosters this through our annual exhibition and sale as well as lecture programmes, sponsorship and our own education initiatives (including an online course ‘Inside the Global Contemporary Art World’ offered in Arabic).”

Both Jeha and Khayat underscored the need for increased research and reference materials on artists from the Middle East, including books and catalogues, and highlighted the importance of authenticating works from artists’ estates to enhance the existing confidence in the regional art market.

“The demand for quality modern art from the Middle East has made it increasingly scarce, and Christie’s will continue to focus on finding and delivering these works to collections in both our Dubai and London sales. In 2018 and beyond, we would like to see a commensurate increase in the quality of contemporary works coming to auction so that the market for these becomes more varied and sustainable both regionally and internationally during the next decade. Further growth in the number of regional galleries will also enhance future prospects for artists and collectors,” added Jeha.

In 2017, Christie’s moved its regular October sale from Dubai to London at the firm’s headquarters during the prestigious Frieze Week in London. The sale achieved a total of $6,863,249 with sell-through rates of 85% by lot and 88% by value. Registered bidders from 23 countries confirmed the international appetite for works from the region. The sale was led by a world auction record for the Iraqi artist Jewad Selim, whose painting The Watermelon Seller sold for £668,750 ($876,731), more than double its high pre-sale estimate of £250,000.

The next sale of Middle Eastern Modern and Contemporary Art will be held at the Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel on Thursday, March 22 at 7pm with the public exhibition open every day from Monday, March 19. As ever will the auction present works by Iranian, Turkish, Lebanese, Egyptian, Syrian, Iraqi, Palestinian artists, to name a few.

Without a doubt, the city of Alexandria had an everlasting effect on the oeuvre of Mahmoud Said (Egyptian, 1897-1964). His paintings capture the true essential form of the subject, depicted with dramatic contrast and a vivid combination of light and shadow. On one hand, Said creates a plein-air quality that is found in Impressionist paintings; on the other hand, he exposes Cubist features. The palette, composition and faceted interpretation of the jagged mountain all hold a resemblance to Cezanne’s works; yet also present are the distinctive details emblematic of Mahmoud Said’s oeuvre.

In the work Alexandrie Le Mex, painted in1918 (estimate: $55,000-65,000) the fishing village of Al Max is depicted, a community of fishermen centered around the freshwater canal Mahmoudiyah, Said’s technical skills are proven, not only by incorporating his knowledge of aerial perspective, but also by defying and experimenting with it. His work involves rare three-dimensional qualities. His art also almost always had cultural reflections that were rooted in his scenes of peasant girls dressed in traditional attire, of crowded architecture in the city, of groups of men praying, and most importantly, the effect of the vivid sun, the glaring light, and the stillness of a tradition. Warm and cool colors are carefully composed. Composition, tone and hue are in perfect harmony.

The artist Fahr El-Nissa Zeid (Turkish, 1901-1991) is one of the only female artists from the Middle Eastern world to be recognized during the postwar years. Her attention to abstract art movements within action painting and the related dialogue of the Ecole de Paris led her to become an integral force of the cross pollination of artistic ideas between Eastern and Oriental traditions. Budapest, The Express between Budapest and Istanbul painted in 1943 (estimate: $80,000-120,000) is a stunning example of her early figurative works before her major transition towards abstraction, representing a momentous point in her life as she witnessed perfectly small, joyous moments on the streets in her travels while she underwent severe bouts of depression. These scenes, along with A Winter Day, Istanbul painted the following year, in 1944 (estimate: $80,000-120,000) preserve special memories of her observations during her earlier part of her life and served as a framework for her to build on for her notable color and light experimentations. Both works were part of the 2017 exhibition Fahrelnissa Zeid, at Tate Modern in London.

From Farhad Moshiri’s (Iranian, b. 1963) signature early jar series is Le jeu est fini (the game is over) painted in 2003 (estimate: $120,000-180,000). An avid collector of Persian ceramics, Moshiri’s fascination incited him to contribute in the discussion of form and cultural significance of the objects’ importance from ancient to contemporary times.

Throughout history jars had a dual function, used not only as objects of utility, but as a decoration as well. Revolutionizing the way jars were displayed, Moshiri depicted them on a flat surface that they become objects of gaze and at the same time creates a dialogue by including traditional poetry and sacred texts. The weathered textures of jars prompted Moshiri to depict them in mixed media and paint. He followed his own signature method, to obtain the craquelures of the paint, by relying heavily on randomness within a complex process of layering, scrubbing, folding and manipulating the paint surface, leaving the works in the rain to soak, while also putting them in the sun to bake, while applying glue.

Huguette Caland (Lebanese, b. 1931) is recognized as one of Lebanon’s most renowned contemporary artists of her generation. Born in 1931 in Beirut, Caland is the daughter of Bechara El Khoury, the first president of Lebanon after its independence in 1943. She studied at the American University of Beirut with Shafic Abboud (1926-2004), Helen Khal (1923-2000) and Aref El-Rayess (1928-2005). In 1970, Caland moved to Paris, leaving her husband and children behind. The place where she truly established herself by moving into abstract paintings was in Venice, California from 1987 onwards. She experimented with a wide range of media and used her canvases to reflect upon emotional memories from her past, in which family, war and freedom featured. Additionally, her paintings unveil a microcosm of aromas and textures of Beirut. The vividness of the colours shines through her work whether it is in the fine brushstrokes, splashes of ink or the details in pen. Furthermore, the clash of line and colour is truly magical, as can be seen in Good Luck, painted in 2009 (estimate: $80,000-120,000).

Fascinated by the architectural ornamentation of Islamic monuments, Timo Nasseri (Iranian, b.1972) uses the geometric proportions and mathematic properties to create spectacular pieces. Born to a German father and Iranian mother, this Berlin-based artist grew up absorbing the influences of two radically different cultures. Exploring shapes, studying perspective, and working on the forces of physics, Nasseri began his career as a commercial photographer until his interest in art grew after travelling through Iran in the early 2000’s. However, his main source of inspiration derives from Persian architectural ornamental vaulting from the 10th century called muqarnas, as well as decorative mosque entrances.

Thus, he usually inserts his realisations in the wall to keep the traditional aspect. However, with this impressive work, Parsec #11, finalized in 2010, Timo Nasseri showed an original way of exhibition and a new description of mathematical infinities. The Parsec series, produced from 2009 to 2011, reveals a new vision of the artist who decided to retain the volume of the sculpture (estimate: $35,000-45,000).


Good Luck
Acrylic, coloured and silver pens on loose canvas
40 7/8 x 84 2/3 in. (104 x 215 cm.)
Painted in 2009
Provenance: Galerie Janine Rubeiz, Beirut.
Anon. sale, Ayyam Gallery, Beirut, 15 July 2015, lot 25.
Literature: Huguette Caland: Works 1968-2012, Beirut Exhibition Centre, Beirut 2013 (illustrated in colour p. 248).