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Six important works by Dia Azzawi offered at Bonhams Modern & Contemporary Middle Eastern Art sale
Dia Azzawi (Iraq, born 1939), Rajul Fi'l-Sahraa' (Man In Desert). Estimate: £40,000 - £60,000. Photo: Bonhams.

LONDON.- A group of six rare and important works by one of the pioneers of modern Arab art, Dia Azzawi (Iraq, born 1939) will be offered as part of Bonhams Modern & Contemporary Middle Eastern Art sale on 23 October in London. The collection, which includes painting, works on paper, sculpture and tapestry, covers important stages of Azzawi’s career. One of the highlights is the painting Rajul Fi’l-Sahraa (Man in Desert), which has an estimate of £40,000 - £60,000.

Rajul Fi’l-Sahraa (Man in Desert) is one of a number of Azzawi’s works inspired by the 7th century poet Waddah Al-Yaman - said to have been buried alive for falling in love with the caliph’s wife. The work focuses on the relationship between Waddah and his beloved and reflects on the poet’s mysterious disappearance. With its richness, complexity and inner meanings, the work is not simply a reflection of a poetic love, but a pointed meditation on the plight of the oppressed.

An artistic polymath, Azzawi was encouraged to pursue art by King Faisal II - months before the 1958 Revolution culminated in the 23-year-old king’s assassination. But the artist’s career was interrupted; between 1966 and 1973 he was forced to serve as a reservist in the Iraqi Army. The experience, and the atrocities he witnessed, greatly influenced his work - including Rajul Fi’l-Sahraa (Man in Desert). In 1969 he formed the New Vision Group, which emphasized an association between art and revolution and sought to transcend the notion of a ‘local style’. Azzawi moved to London in 1976, where he still lives.

Bonhams Director of Middle Eastern, Islamic and South Asian Art, Nima Sagharchi, said; “Azzawi’s artistic response to the wider turmoil with which he was surrounded is conveyed through a combination of political and a poetic sensibility. Blending the past with the present and bridging the gap between Eastern and Western artistic traditions, his enigmatic and sumptuous works feature in some of the world’s most prestigious institutions and collections”.

Works offered date from 1973 to 2008, and include:

• Arabic Letters, Estimate: £15,000 - £20,000.

• Hommage to Baghdad, Estimate: £10,000 - £15,000.

• Human States, Estimate: £3,000 - £5,000.

• Drawings Consecrated to Love: Waddah al-Yaman I, Estimate: £3,000 - £5,000.

• Drawings Consecrated to Love: Homage to Waddah al-Yaman II, Estimate: £3,000 - £5,000.

Other highlights of the sale include:

Still Life in Frame by Manoucher Yektai, estimate: £80,000 - £120,000. Born in Tehran, Yektai is considered one of the unsung founders of the New York School of Abstract Expressionism. Still Life in Frame is one of the most formidable examples of Yektai’s striking expressionist still life compositions. The work was originally in the collection of renowned photographic journalist and friend of the artist Robert Monroe.

Trees by Sohrab Sepehri, estimate: £75,000 - £100,000 is an exceptional early work from his celebrated Trees series - one of the most refined and technically accomplished examples ever to appear at auction. For Sepehri, trees represented an escape from an oppressive and melancholic urban environment, whilst his repeated depiction and focus on the trunk as the singular archetype of nature, reflected his belief in the Zen tradition of stripping back excess. The work also has an extraordinary provenance, having belonged to the legendary Iranian singer Marzieh.

Le Tilleul (The Lime Tree) by Shafic Abboud, estimate: £70,000 - £100,000. A vibrantly articulated composition by one of the most lauded Lebanese artists of the modern era. This work featured in the renowned Salon des Réalités Nouvelles at the Grand Palais in 1988.

The Sands of Time (Behold! here come the Horses, Behold! Here pass the Sands of Time) by Yvette Achkar, estimate: £60,000 - £100,000 - One of Achkar's most elegant and skilful abstract compositions. The work demonstrates the palpable clash between naturalism and abstraction often encapsulated in Achkar's work.

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